Center left says won't save Berlusconi

Media mogul's loyalists say 'govt already finished'

Center left says won't save Berlusconi

(By Christopher Livesay) Rome, August 12 - The center-left took a hard line Monday on longtime-foe-turned-uneasy-ally, three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi, and a supreme court conviction for tax fraud, vowing to vote in favor of banning him from office. 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. 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 against him in years of legal entanglements that range from charges of abuse of office and judge buying to paying an underage prostitute for sex. The jail term has been commuted to one year because of an amnesty and due to his age, the sentence is likely to take the form of community service or house arrest. The sentence also comes with an automatic six-year ban from office which, in order to take effect, the Senate must ratify after the summer recess next month in a vote. Speranza said that "the PD will vote for Berlusconi's downfall". If every member votes in unison, the ban should be ratified since the party holds a narrow majority in the Senate, ahead of Berlusconi's center-right People of Freedom (PdL) party. 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. Supporters of the magnate have repeatedly threatened to resign en masse if his ban from office is upheld. But 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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