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Parliament rejects M5S bid to impeach Napolitano

Berlusconi's party snubs vote, amid furore over 2008-2011 govt

11 February, 16:56
Parliament rejects M5S bid to impeach Napolitano (By Paul Virgo) (ANSA) - Rome, February 11 - A parliamentary committee on Tuesday rejected a petition from the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) for President Giorgio Napolitano to be impeached.

The committee backed a proposal presented by Premier Enrico Letta's centre-left Democratic Party (PD), the biggest group in parliament, for the impeachment proceedings to be dropped with 28 votes in favour and eight against.

The M5S accused Napolitano, who was re-elected for an unprecedented second term as head of State last year, of not being a fair arbiter of Italian politics and favouring the established parties.

The lawmakers of the M5S, which won about a quarter of the vote at last year's general election, said in a statement that they would press on and collect the votes necessary to reopen the case and take it to a joint session of the two houses of parliament.

"Napolitano today is this country's main problem," said M5S leader Beppe Grillo on his popular blog, which gave life to the Internet-based movement in 2009.

"The sooner he is removed, the sooner Italy will be able to get going again".

The foul-mouthed comedian-cum-politician added that the president should have "the dignity to resign" because "Italy cannot be condemned to having Napolitano for life. The M5S was furious that Napolitano, 88, engineered the creation of Premier Enrico Letta's left-right coalition government after last year's inconclusive general election.

Those elections led to two months of deadlock as the M5S, which held the balance of power in parliament, refused to enter talks on the formation of a government with any of the established parties.

The M5S said Napolitano had breached the Constitution by failing to send back unconstitutional laws to parliament and abusing his power of pardon, among other things.

The movement also accused Napolitano of interfering in a Palermo trial into alleged negotiations between the State and the Mafia two decades ago.

The members of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia (FI) party on the committee did not take part in Tuesday's vote.

There have been calls from within FI for it to consider calling for Napolitano's impeachment after Mario Monti confirmed Monday that he he was sounded out by Napolitano in the summer of 2011 about the possibility of taking over the reins of power. The news has been taken as evidence by some that Napolitano wanted to see the end of the last of Berlusconi's three governments, which fell in November 2011 when Italy looked in danger of facing a Greek-style financial meltdown.

Napolitano dismissed speculation he plotted to bring down Berlusconi's government in 2011 as "just smoke". Monti replaced Berlusconi as premier at the helm of a emergency technocrat administration that passed painful austerity measures that steered Italy out of the financial crisis. It governed until April 2013. "The real facts, the only ones in the real history of the country in 2011, are well known and indisputable," Napolitano wrote in a letter to Corriere della Sera, which first published the reports he sounded out Monti in the summer of 2011.

"These are summed up by the fact that the governing majority that won the 2008 elections was clearly struggling more and more". Napolitano also stressed that he only gave the former European commissioner the mandate to form an emergency government after Berlusconi resigned.

MPs from Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia (FI) party on Tuesday called for a meeting with the three-time premier to established what the party's line should be with respect to the president.

"We're in a cage of madmen," former centre-left premier Romano Prodi said when asked about the furore over Napolitano's conduct in 2011.