The quarrel within the PDL has not yet subsided. Yesterday Minister Gaetano Quagliariello, interviewed by the newspaper Il Messaggero, said that if a block of the PDL threatens once again to withdraw support from the government, there will be about 25 PDL members ready to support Enrico Letta’s administration. He added that if Silvio Berlusconi loses his seat in the Senate and tries to pressure members of his party to withdrawal their support from the governing coalition, he will not succeed. After the interview Quagliariello was criticized by other members of the PDL. The strongest disapproval was voiced by Anna Cinzia Bonfrisco, who accused Quagliariello of being a “champion of betrayal”. A group of 24 PDL members then released an official statement affirming that “it is no longer possible to maintain an unconstructive permanently critical stance against the government.” They also said that the tone and language used to criticize Quagliariello is unacceptable. According to La Repubblica, this statement is proof that the PDL is about to split, but Angelino Alfano, the leader of the party, affirmed this morning that the party hasn’t even discussed the possibility of a “split”.
Prime Minister Enrico Letta, commenting on the labor unions’ decision to strike in protest against the Stability Law, said they made a rash decision, reaffirming that the economic measures presented by his government will lead to growth.
On Saturday Milan’s Court of Appeals announced the duration of Silvio Berlusconi’s ban from public office: two years. The Court’s decision has diminished, at least temporarily, discord within the PDL. Many PDL members expressed solidarity with Berlusconi. Angelino Alfano, the PDL leader, commented: “I spoke with Berlusconi on the phone. Our leader is spirited and determined, as usual. We all stand by him […] and a Court’s verdict will not deprive a leader of his people, or a people of their leader”. Alfano added yesterday that the PD should change its position on the retroactivity of the Severino Law and the Constitutional Court should re-examine the legislation.
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Mario Monti criticized the members of Civic Choice, in particular Pierferdinando Casini and the Minister of Defense Mario Mauro. He went on to attack the current government saying that Enrico Letta’s administration “kneels down to the PDL’s demands.” Letta replied that he will speak with Monti in the next few days. During the weekend Letta met with the Vice Minister for Economics, Stefano Fassina, who had threatened to resign and convinced him to keep his post. Still, Letta will probably have to face other criticisms regarding the Stability Law, since the labor unions have just announced a four-hour strike in the upcoming weeks.
The Stability Law has destabilized parties more than expected. Now both Civic Choice (SC) and the PD are facing disagreements among their members. Mario Monti, the SC leader, resigned from his position and left the party to join another group in the Senate because 11 members did not approve his official statement on the Stability Law. Instead, they submitted an alternative, which Monti considered “a motion of no-confidence against me.” He added that he feels betrayed by those who asked him for help in the last parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, the PD Vice Minister for Economics, Stefano Fassina, wants to resign because he disagrees with the economic measures presented by the government. As reported by several newspapers, Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who is currently on an official visit to the United States, said that he will deal with Fassina upon his return to Italy.
Yesterday, during a meeting with the all PDL ministers, Silvio Berlusconi affirmed: “I can still support this government, but I want ministers closer to me”. As reported by La Repubblica, among the 5 PDL ministers only one (Nunzia De Girolamo) supports Berlusconi, while the other four ministers stand by Vice Prime Minister Angelino Alfano. According to Il Messaggero, Berlusconi asked Alfano to choose between having a role in the government and serving as party leader. If Alfano decides to maintain leadership of the PDL, then his place in the government will be taken by a Berlusconi loyalist. Conversely, if Alfano prefers to stay in the government, then the party will be led by Berlusconi himself. The concern within the party about this strategy is that Letta won’t easily allow a cabinet reshuffle.
The main news of the day is that President Giorgio Napolitano has been called upon to testify in the State-Mafia case regarding a possible negotiation between the Italian state and the mafia in 1993. The investigating judges are trying to determine if his former legal adviser played a role in the 1993 negotiations.
In the meantime, the Stability Law approved yesterday by the government has drawn criticism from the Confederation of Italian Industries (Confindustria) and labor unions are threatening to go on strike. A group of PDL members also expressed disappointment in the economic measures presented by Enrico Letta’s administration, while another block of the party defends the Stability Law. In an attempt to maintain unity within his party, Silvio Berlusconi called a meeting with all of the PDL Ministers.
According to several newspapers, including La Repubblica and Il Sole 24 Ore, it is likely that the public prosecutor’s office of Milan will open up a new inquiry against Silvio Berlusconi related to the Rubygate case by the end of the year. In June 2013 Berlusconi was convicted of having sex with an underage prostitute and abuse of power (he is appealing the conviction).
Yesterday the government approved the Stability Law, which contains measures for economic recovery. The governing coalition reached an agreement easily. According to La Stampa, in fact, the PD and the PDL agreed on the content of the law two weeks ago.
But yesterday the Committee for Regulations in the Senate discussed whether or not to vote secretly on Silvio Berlusconi’s relinquishment of his seat. Here the governing allies diverged. The PD, affirmed that it is favorable to an open vote. This provoked a strong reaction from the PDL. One PDL member, Sandro Bondi, warned: “The Democratic Party, in supporting an open vote, shows its intention to challenge the governing alliance.” The Committee postponed its decision to the end of October when the body will meet again. Meanwhile, the Conference of Group Leaders (the body that deliberates on the calendar of the Senate) did not set a date for a general discussion of Belusconi’s case during the month of October. In the next two weeks the Senate will be busy deliberating over the country’s budget and, therefore, the decision regarding the PDL leader will not be made until November.
The electoral campaign for the Democratic Party leadership officially began on Saturday. There are four candidates: Matteo Renzi, Mayor of Florence; Pippo Civati, PD congressman; Gianni Cuperlo, member of the Italian Chamber; and Gianni Pittella, Vice President of the European Parliament. Renzi launched his campaign in Bari, by giving a speech, during which he disagreed with President Napolitano’s proposal of amnesty or pardon for solving the problem of overcrowding in Italian jails. He called the plan a huge mistake. This immediately incited debate within parties: the Minister of Economic Development, Flavio Zanonato, said that Renzi is pandering to voters, while the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emma Bonino, suggested that Renzi should re-read Napolitano’s proposal before criticizing it.
Meanwhile, Silvio Berlusconi tried to stop the clash within his party, asking PDL members not to argue publicly over the media but rather within the party itself. Regarding Napolitano’s proposal of amnesty, many members of the PDL, including Minister Gaetano Quagliariello, have agreed with the President. However, they argued that Berlusconi should also benefit from this plan.
Friday afternoon the majority of the members of Election Committee determined that Silvio Berlusconi has to leave his seat in the Senate. The President of the Committee Dario Stefano has 20 days to present his report to the President of the Senate who will then set the date for the general deliberation of the assembly. Berlusconi commented: “This is a blow to democracy’s heart”. Meanwhile, according to Franco Coppi, Berlusconi’s lawyer, the PDL leader has decided to serve his sentence through public service.
Prime Minister Enrico Letta, interviewed on a TV show, said that after the PDL’s decision to vote for confidence in his government, the Berlusconi’s era is over: “On Wednesday an era that lasted 20 years ended. […] Alfano affirmed strong leadership: he was challenged and he won.” But Angelino Alfano did not appreciate Letta’s statement, since he affirmed that the PDL does not welcome any interference into its own deliberation.
After last week’s tragic accident, in which a pontoon carrying about 500 migrants burst into flame and capsized, resulting in the deaths of more than 200 people, political parties are debating whether or not to change the Bossi-Fini Law regarding the conditions of legal immigration. Cecile Kyenge, the Minister for the Integration, stated that the Bossi-Fini Law would be edited soon.
This morning the Election Committee in the Senate will deliberate on whether or not Silvio Berlusconi must leave his office. Dario Stefano will present his report and then there will be various speeches (e.g. from Berlusconi’s lawyer). Later the Committee will take its decision: the final verdict should be disclosed this evening, or at least tomorrow morning (to watch the live stream of the Committee’s meeting click here).
Regarding the effects that the Wednesday’s confidence vote had on the PDL, divisions within the party are still present, but for the moment the dissidents have halted plans to establish new groups within the two chambers of the Parliament.
This morning Prime Minister Enrico Letta gave a speech to the Senate and asked for a confidence vote, saying that members are not voting against anybody; they are voting for Italy and Italian people. When Silvio Berlusconi arrived at the Senate, he affirmed that his party would listen to Letta’s statement and then decide whether or not to maintain its support for the government. After the speech, the PDL officially announced that it would sustain a vote of no confidence. However, a group of 23 senators, including Minister Gaetano Quagliariello, dissented and announced that they were ready to leave Berlusconi’s party and to support Letta’s administration. At this point the PDL leader changed his mind and agreed to not withdraw support from the government. Thus, the cabinet was confirmed and the crisis was foiled: 235 senators voted for confidence.
According to many newspapers, including La Stampa and La Repubblica, the PDL is still splitting into two different groups, despite the confirmation of the government. 26 deputies have already presented their request to establish an independent group in the Chamber of Deputies, where Letta spoke in the evening.
Yesterday Silvio Berlusconi met with PDL parliamentarians. He said that the governing days of the PDL are over. However, he also recommended an agenda for the current administration: in the next seven days the government should approve the decrease in the VAT (today the tax has passed from 21% to 22%), ratify the law decree on the IMU (the real estate tax), and approve the Stability Law. Then Enrico Letta’s cabinet should collapse and a new election should be called. He also explained to the members of his party that the decision to call for resignation of the PDL ministers was made only by himself.
Today Vice Prime Minister Angelino Alfano visited Berlusconi: the two PDL leaders disagree over which position the party should take tomorrow when Letta asks for a confidence vote from the Senate. Alfano is not as confident as his party leader is that the government should collapse. According to Il Corriere della Sera, there could be about 15 PDL senators available to support Letta’s government anyway.
Meanwhile Berlusconi had a harsh clash with Giorgio Napolitano. The PDL leader stated that Napolitano had conspired with the judges of the Supreme Court against him on the civil trial about Lodo Mondadori. Napolitano replied that Berlusconi’s statement is just “another delirious fabrication, vulgarly libelous against the Head of the State”.