Berlusconi vows to remain in center of Italian politics

Berlusconi vows to remain in center of Italian politics

PanARMENIAN.Net - Silvio Berlusconi vowed on Wednesday, Sept 18, to remain at the center of Italian politics even if expelled from parliament because of a tax fraud conviction.

According to Reuters, in an emotional television address, the billionaire media magnate launched a bitter attack on magistrates he said were perverting democracy and called for sweeping judicial reform. He also announced the relaunch of his original political party Forza Italia (Go Italy).

"I will always be with you, at your side, expelled from parliament or not. It is not the parliamentary seat that makes a leader," Berlusconi said in the pre-recorded speech. He made no mention of earlier threats to bring down Italy's fragile coalition government because of the conviction.

A poll published last week revealed that nearly three-quarters of Italians think Berlusconi should be barred from the Senate after a conviction for tax fraud, and a majority want to avert a government crisis over the issue.

According to a poll by the SWG institute for the state television station RAI, 73 percent of Italians asked said they believed the Senate should vote to expel Berlusconi.

Sixty percent of those asked in the poll said the center-right should continue to support Letta's government for the good of the country even if Berlusconi is booted out.

The poll indicated that center-right voters were split almost down the middle about what to do if Berlusconi is ousted.

Fifty-two percent of center-right voters said the bloc should withdraw its support for Letta, potentially forcing him to resign. But 45 percent said they should continue to support him and 3 percent were undecided.

Letta has repeatedly said that a government crisis in the current tough economic circumstances would be irresponsible.

Italy is struggling to control its 2 trillion euro public debt, and the drawn-out impasse over Berlusconi's fate has hurt efforts to reform the euro zone's third-largest economy.

A separate SWG poll on Friday indicated that approval of Letta's government had risen to 29 percent from 25 percent a week ago and that his personal approval rose to 41 percent from 40 last week.

Italy's top court definitively convicted Berlusconi, 76, last month of tax fraud conspiracy at his Mediaset television empire. It sentenced him to a four-year jail term, commuted to one year under house arrest or in community service.

Berlusconi and his supporters say he is innocent and that magistrates whom they accuse of being politically motivated are trying to end his 20-year domination of Italy's political scene.

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