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Berlusconi video ready ‘to topple government’

People of Liberty party (PDL) leader Silvio Berlusconi. Photo: ReutersPeople of Liberty party (PDL) leader Silvio Berlusconi. Photo: Reuters

Silvio Berlusconi has prepared a video message that could announce a decision to bring down Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s coalition government, one of his staunchest supporters said yesterday.

The comment came ahead of a meeting on Monday of a special Senate committee that will vote on whether to strip centre-right leader and former premier Berlusconi of his seat in Parliament after he received a four-year jail sentence for tax fraud.

“It’s ready, Berlusconi will decide when to broadcast it and I think it is absolutely imminent,” Daniela Santanche, a deputy nicknamed “the pythoness” for her fierce devotion to the media billionaire, told a news conference.

She said the 76-year-old Berlusconi alone would decide whether to quit the government but that statements from his centre-left coalition partners in support of expelling him from the Senate were unacceptable.

“Personally, I don’t think we can remain sitting next to people who want to be the butchers of Berlusconi.”

I don’t think we can remain next to people who want to be his butchers

Speculation over a crisis that could topple Letta’s fragile coalition of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and the centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) party has been swirling ever since Berlusconi lost his final appeal against the conviction last month.

The trigger for a crisis could be a Senate committee on parliamentary eligibility, which meets on Monday to begin discussions that could end with the formal opening of procedures to expel Berlusconi from the Senate.

However, the PDL appears divided and has switched between pledges of support for Letta and repeated threats over the last few weeks to bring down the government, adding to the political confusion hanging over Rome.

Italy can ill-afford disarray: the eurozone’s third-largest economy is struggling to emerge from its longest post-war recession and cut its massive public debt, but reform efforts have been hampered by constant government infighting.

Speaking at a meeting of the G20 group of economic powers in St Petersburg, Letta brushed off questions about the future of the government, saying he was not thinking about a possible crisis but rather concentrating on the summit.

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