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Berlusconi party could 'demand justice reform' to stay in Italy coalition

Berlusconi party could 'demand justice reform' to stay in Italy coalition
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Silvio Berlusconi has been meeting senior party colleagues for the first time since his tax fraud conviction was set in stone by Italy’s highest court.

With the future of Italy’s fragile coalition in doubt, of which his PDL party remains a key partner, there are reports of some defiant comments from among his supporters.

Senior figures are said to be considering asking the country’s president to pardon Berlusconi and could resign if rebuffed.

Party MPs are said to be ready to quit, calling for new elections and judicial reform.

Earlier the Prime Minister Enrico Letta, from the centre-left, made an appeal for calm.

“I am among those who put Italy first. As far as I am concerned, if there are others who want to put different priorities first, I think it’s important to have a clear understanding of the order of priorities. The country, Italy, comes first – before all other interests,” he said.

The Court of Cassation’s ruling is not the end of the saga. The question of Berlusconi’s ban from office remains unresolved. A Senate vote on expelling him from parliament could come in September.

If Berlusconi and his close aides act on apparent threats to insist on justice reform, it may bode ill for the coalition.

Equally many in the centre-left Democratic Party are unhappy at staying in partnership with a convicted tax evader.

For the moment the threats are just words – but Italy can ill afford more uncertainty and stalemate.