Rome

Berlusconi bid to keep Senate seat not predetermined

Coalition government must hold itself together, says minister

Berlusconi bid to keep Senate seat not predetermined

Rome, August 16 - Further study is needed before any vote on ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's likely bid to retain his Senate seat, Gaetano Quagliariello said Friday. "I think there are many things to clarify and deepen, and I think it is in everyone's interest to do so," the constitutional reform minister said in an interview with ANSA. Berlusconi's seat is under threat since Italy's highest appeal court has upheld his criminal fraud conviction. The situation does not have "predetermined outcomes" added the minister, and must be closely studied because of its political sensitivity and consequences. Italy's fragile coalition government has been threatened by political fighting over the recent court decision over Berlusconi's fraud conviction. Some members of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) say they cannot work with a party led by a convicted criminal, while members of Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party want broad government support in forcing a pardon for Berlusconi and protection of his Senate seat. 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. Meanwhile, President Giorgio Napolitano's urging that Italy's fragile coalition government hold itself together is not sufficient, in itself, to achieve that end, said Quagliariello. Instead, the government led by Premier Enrico Letta must find a way to protect and defend itself, he added. "It must itself ensure its own survival," said Quagliariello, a prominent member of the PdL. That means members of different political parties within government must find ways to work together.

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