Rome

Senate panel to meet at 20:30 for vote on banning Berlusconi

Tensions high surrounding fate of government

Senate panel to meet at 20:30 for vote on banning Berlusconi

Rome, September 18 - Italy's Senate immunity panel will meet at 20:30 local time on Wednesday for a vote that could lead to stripping ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi of his seat in the Upper House and spell the end of Italy's shaky left-right coalition government. Each parliamentary group will have 10 minutes to present their argument, the president of the Senate panel, Dario Stefano, said. The meeting is expected to end at 22:30. The panel began related meetings earlier Wednesday. At stake is a six-year ban from public office for the three-time premier and media magnate to comply with a new anti-corruption rule that kicked in after Italy's supreme Cassation Court found Berlusconi guilty last month for tax fraud, his first ever binding conviction in nearly 20 years of legal entanglements with magistrates he claims are left-wing and biased. Berlusconi's party, the centre-right People of Freedom (PdL), has vowed to pull its vital support from the executive it co-governs with the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) if Senators from the PD vote to ban Berlusconi from office.

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