Rome

Italian President to meet Berlusconi's party Tuesday

PdL requested meeting with Napolitano ahead of 'consultations'

Italian President to meet Berlusconi's party Tuesday

(see related stories on Berlusconi) Rome, March 11 - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano will meet senior members of Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party on Tuesday, ANSA sources said Monday. The meeting was requested by the PdL, the sources said, with Secretary Angelino Alfano, and the party's whip in the Senate, Maurizio Gasparri, and in the House, Fabrizio Cicchitto, set to attend. Napolitano is due to meet party leaders next week for official consultations after Italy's general election failed to produce a clear winner. The Italian presidency is usually largely a figurehead role but it takes on major importance at the moment with a hung parliament. It is up to Napolitano to decide which political leader to give the job of trying to form a new government and then how to proceed if this is not possible. He is expected to first turn to centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani, whose coalition came first but failed to win a working majority in the Senate. Berlusconi's centre-right alliance came a close second while comedian Beppe Grillo's 5-Star Movement (M5S) holds the balance of power in parliament after capturing a huge protest vote. Some reports linked Tuesday's meeting to Berlusconi's recent judicial problems, which the PdL says are part of a campaign by some left-wing magistrates to "persecute" the three-time Italian premier for political reasons. Berlusconi is on trial for allegedly paying for sex with an underage prostitute and on Monday Naples prosecutors requested he be indicted in relation to alleged corruption in a Senator's change of political colours. Many of Berlusconi's supporters said the last straw was when a court ordered medical inspectors to check on his condition after he missed a hearing of the sex trial on Friday after being taken into hospital with an eye condition. He was still in hospital on Monday. Last week Berlusconi was given a one-year jail term over the publication of an illegally obtained wiretap in his brother's newspaper. He is appealing against a four-year conviction he was handed last year for tax fraud on film rights for his Mediaset TV group too. In Italy prison sentences for non-violent crimes do not usually become effective until the two-tier appeals system has been exhausted. photo: Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

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