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Napolitano has saved Italy, says Letta

Premier tells opponents to halt criticism of president

23 December, 14:47
Napolitano has saved Italy, says Letta (ANSA) - Rome, December 23 - Premier Enrico Letta said Monday that Italian President Giorgio Napolitano "has saved Italy" and warned opponents, led by ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, to halt their criticism.

Napolitano has not overstepped his duties, as some critics have charged, added Letta.

"I believe that President Napolitano has saved Italy," Letta said during a year-end interview. Letta insisted that the president, the first in Italian history to be elected to a second term of office in April during a political crisis, "did not exceed his duties and responsibilities" as his critics have alleged.

Napolitano, 88, has taken a great deal of criticism in recent months from a variety of fronts, including Berlusconi and his supporters, who demanded the president pardon the multimillionaire media mogul who was definitely convicted in August of tax fraud.

Although Berlusconi did not ever directly request a pardon for his conviction, which led to the three-time premier's ejection from the Senate earlier this month, he and his supporters apparently expected it from Napolitano.

Meanwhile, ex-comic Beppe Grillo and his anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) said that if Napolitano heeded Berlusconi's demands, the president should be impeached.

Napolitano has played an active role in Italian politics this year, after an inconclusive election in February led to several months of political deadlock involving the PD, the M5S and Berlusconi's party at the time, the People of Freedom (PdL) party.

In April, Napolitano turned for a new government leader to Letta, former deputy leader of the PD who also has connections with the PdL through his uncle Gianni Letta, who has been Berlusconi's chief of staff.

The PdL recently broke up - in part over the Senate vote to eject Berlusconi, with some former PdL members forming the New Centre Right (NCD) party while Berlusconi has relaunched his former Forza Italia (FI) party.