Italy’s supreme court, the Court of Cassation, is expected to rule today in the conviction of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for tax fraud.
But the case has major political overtones for Italy’s ruling coalition.
Berlusconi is challenging a decision by a lower court, which sentenced him to jail and banned him from public office, for fraudulently buying broadcasting rights for his media empire.
Some in Rome were sympathetic. “If they condemn Mr Berlusconi, there will be a radical change in Italy because the institutions, by condemning him, will also condemn all the others,” said one man
“I hope he is acquitted. There has been a judiciary persecution against Berlusconi which has lasted 20 years. It’s a scandal So, let’s see if the court will be reasonable,” added another.
Shut away in the council chamber to avoid outside interference, the five judges of the top court will have to make a decision based only on the law.
They can uphold the sentence, overturn it or send it back for appeal.
But if the conviction is upheld, the centre-left Democratic Party, (PD), led by the current Prime Minister Enrico Letta, and Berlusconi’s centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) may refuse to continue the coalition.