Center-left says no bargain in store for Berlusconi

Santanche' warns govt at its end, 'must go back to the polls'

Center-left says no bargain in store for Berlusconi

Rome, August 12 - The center-left will offer no favors to protect three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi from serving his fraud sentence, both the Democratic Party (PD) Lower House whip and a government minister said Monday. Regional Affairs Minister Graziano del Rio told the La Repubblica daily that the unprecedented left-right coalition government "was born to help Italy out of the economic crisis," and that "we did not create the legal troubles of Berlusconi - we weren't the cause and we won't be the solution". PD Lower House whip Roberto Speranza said simply there would be "no deals" between the embattled parties that make up the fragile executive, adding that "the PD will vote for the fall" of the leader of the center-right People of Freedom party. Earlier this month the media tycoon was sentenced by the supreme Cassation Court to four years in jail for tax fraud on film rights at his Mediaset empire, his first-ever definitive conviction in years of legal entanglements that range from charges of abuse of office to paying an underage prostitute for sex. The jail term has been commuted to one year because of an amnesty, and the court suspended a five-year ban on Berlusconi holding public office, sending this part of the punishment back to the Milan appeals court for review. Due to his age, the jail term is likely to take the form of community service or house arrest. There were fears the ruling would have consequences for Premier Enrico Letta's government, which needs the support of Berlusconi's party to survive. Both forged an uneasy alliance in the wake of inconclusive February elections that produced two months of parliamentary gridlock. Berlusconi has said several times recently that his legal problems and the government are separate issues. Daniela Santanche', a PdL MP and longtime Berlusconi loyalist, said in her eyes the government was already at its end. "It's finished because it fails to take action. Its role as a government is already over," she told the daily Il Tempo. "The only solution is to go back to the polls".

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