Rome

Right, left heavyweights keep swinging over Berlusconi

Bindi says resignation could lead to pardon

Right, left heavyweights keep swinging over Berlusconi

(By Emily Backus) Rome, August 20 - Heavyweights of Italy's centre-right and centre-left continued to wrangle in the Italian media Tuesday over Silvio Berlusconi's political future, and whether the three-time premier's first-ever definitive criminal conviction should mean his removal from parliament and a six-year ban on holding public office. In an interview with newspaper La Repubblica published Tuesday, former Democratic Party (PD) chair Rosy Bindi called on Berlusconi to resign, which she claimed could open the way to a presidential pardon for his main penalty. "Berlusconi should take note of the embarrassment that threatens parliament and resign (before a scheduled Senate commission meeting in September to weigh his removal from office)," said Bindi. Bindi said the gesture would be "of great political significance". "Resigning as parliamentarian would certainly not mean renouncing leadership of his political formation, but he would do it as a citizen who respects the law. At that point, I maintain that even for the head of state it would be more simple to recognize that political gesture, perhaps with a commutation of the main penalty," Bindi said. Meanwhile Italian Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi, a member of Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party in the right-left coalition government, blasted the legitimacy of the Senate vote in an interview with newspaper Il Corriere della Sera. "It seems the only objective is a return to slaughtering the enemy," said Lupi. "The subject of Berlusconi's political freedom and of the parliamentary forfeiture is too serious to be dealt with by the anathemas" of parliament commission members. Lupi also warned that PdL cabinet ministers could resign if Berlusconi is cast out of the Upper House. "We would have to face it seriously. It is is a decision that we would have to take all together with President Berlusconi," Lupi said. Berlusconi risks being stripped of his Senate seat and banned from public office for six years in a vote in September, even though a five-year ban on holding public office that came with the judicial conviction has been sent back to the Milan appeals court for review. Early this month, the supreme court upheld a four-year prison sentence for tax fraud against the media tycoon, three years of which have been commuted due to an amnesty. He must decide next month how to spend the one year left, either performing community service or under house arrest. A Senate commission has given Berlusconi until August 28 to prepare a defence to keep his seat in the Upper House. The commission is set to reconvene September 9 to discuss turfing the 76-year-old billionaire out of parliament, something his supporters have repeatedly threatened could trigger the collapse of the volatile executive. Italy's defence minister, a moderate, struck a calmer chord Tuesday, saying he "could not imagine anyone thinking of toppling the government". Mario Mauro, with the Civic Choice party, is formerly of the Berlusconi's PdL. On Monday, Berlusconi vowed to fight on, defying pressure to step aside as leader of the center right. "I'm resisting! I'm not giving up," Berlusconi told supporters on his Facebook page.

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