A ruling by Italy’s highest court, upholding a tax fraud jail term against Silvio Berlusconi, has left the country mired in uncertainty – once again.
The ruling – over inflated invoices at the 76 year old’s Mediaset broadcasting empire – comes just three months after centre-left Prime Minister Enrico Letta took office.
He heads up an uneasy coalition between his Democratic Party and Berlusconi’s People of Freedom or PDL, the future of which now hangs in the balance.
On the streets of Rome, the confirmation of the sentence has come as a surprise to some.
“I didn’t expect it,” said one man, reacting to the confirmation of the sentence.
“I thought he would get away this time too. Instead they gave him these four years. Because they did this, there is probably some truth in it.”
Another man added: “I believe that this is an episode that honors our country, in the sense that it makes us understand that this is a mature democracy: on one hand, there is the judiciary and on the other there is the politics. But we all know that this ruling will have a lot of political effects.”
The ruling means Berlusconi is definitively a convicted criminal, although the door remains ajar on his political career.
“The ruling threatens to dramatically shorten the life of the Government,” said euronews correspondent Enrico Bona, in Rome.
“It may now fall because of actions of the PDL or because of a section of the Democratic Party who may not want to govern with a knight (referring to Berlusconi), who has been convicted.”