Rome, July 11 - The Senate whip for Silvio Berlusconi's center-right People of Freedom (PdL) suggested the party would pull its support of the fragile coalition government if the ex-premier were banned from office. "If Berlusconi is banned for life, it would be very difficult for the PdL without its leader could follow the experience of the (Enrico) Letta government," said Renato Schifani. The PdL has been outraged by what they consider "political persecution" by allegedly leftist judges who have delivered a series of legal blows to the political and industrial titan in recent weeks. On Wednesday the party secured a one-day halt to parliamentary business to discuss its reaction to a supreme Cassation Court decision to start hearings in just three weeks in a case where the media mogul is appealing a four-year jail term and a five-year ban from public office. The three-time premier is appealing a four-year term for inflating film-rights purchases at his Mediaset media empire, cut to one for an amnesty, as well as a five-year ban from public office. As he is over 70 he would not serve the year in prison if definitively convicted but have to do social work. However the ban would kick in if, as usually happens, parliament ratifies it. Many have worried that the fragile stability of the unprecedented left-right coalition was at risk over Berlusconi's legal entanglements. Members of his party have threatened to resign from government en masse if their leader's ban from office is upheld.
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di Giovanni Pastore