Berlusconi's party scoffs at possible ban from office

'In or out of parliament, power still the same' says Nitto Palma

Berlusconi's party scoffs at possible ban from office

Rome, August 16 - A senior official in Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party says the three-time premier will remain a force for the center right whether he's banned from office or not. "I don't believe being in or out of parliament can keep Berlusconi from exercising leadership," said Francesco Nitto Palma, the president of the Senate justice commission, in an interview Thursday on the KlausCondicio YouTube channel. "Whoever thinks that Berlusconi's role could diminish to that of some sort of spiritual guide has another thing coming. "He will remain a political leader in every sense of the word". The Senate is scheduled to vote in September on whether to uphold a six-year ban from office for the 76-year-old tycoon, who received his first definitive criminal conviction from the supreme Cassation Court earlier this month for fraud at his Mediaset media empire. The ruling came with a four-year jail term, commuted to one year of community service or house arrest due to an amnesty. Berlusconi has until October to decide how to spend the year. The ex-premier's lawyers have said he may ask President Giorgio Napolitano for a pardon. But even if a pardon is granted, Berlusconi could still lose his seat in the Senate. Nitto Palma said that would not faze Berlusconi or his party. "Think of the last elections: Berlusconi didn't even run for premier and that didn't have the slightest effect on his leadership," he said, referring to the February national vote in which the PdL roared to second, ultimately winning a junior role in the current left-right government. "There are neither sentences nor anything else that could keep Berlusconi from being the prestigious leader of the center right".

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