News ID: 214922
Published: 1249 GMT May 12, 2018

Italian tribunal lifts ban on Berlusconi holding public office

Italian tribunal lifts ban on Berlusconi holding public office
ALESSANDRO BIANCHI/REUTERS
Forza Italia party leader Silvio Berlusconi

An Italian tribunal lifted a ban on veteran center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi from holding public office, meaning he could run to be prime minister in the next national election.

However, the decision might have come just too late for the 81-year-old four-times premier, who only three days ago gave his blessing to his political ally the League to form a government without him in the wake of a disappointing election result, Reuters reported.

Berlusconi was convicted of tax fraud in 2013, triggering his expulsion from the upper house of Parliament and a bar on holding any elected position for six years.

However, in a decision made public on Saturday, a court in the northern city of Milan which oversees the application of sentences ruled that the bar could be lifted a year early because of “good conduct”.

“Finally five years of injustice has come to end,” Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party said in a statement. “Berlusconi can once again be a candidate.”

Berlusconi campaigned actively ahead of a March 4 national election even though he was not a candidate. But Forza Italia did not perform as well as he had expected, slipping behind the League to lose its top spot in the center-right bloc.

Berlusconi blamed the poor showing on the fact that voters knew he could not be prime minister.

The center-right emerged as the single largest force at the March vote, while the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement emerged as the biggest individual party.

Neither side won enough seats to govern alone and efforts to put together a coalition were complicated by 5-Star’s refusal to work with Forza Italia, saying Berlusconi symbolized political corruption in Italy.

After more than nine weeks of stalemate, and with fresh elections looking increasingly likely, Berlusconi on Wednesday finally gave his blessing to the League to seek a coalition deal without Forza Italia.

 

Negotiations between the League and 5-Star are continuing, with President Sergio Mattarella giving them until Monday to strike an accord. Both parties say that if they fail to agree terms, the only solution would be a revote, perhaps in July.

A political source, who declined to be named, said the fact Berlusconi was now free to run might make him less amenable to a League/5-Star government and could work to make life difficult for it in parliament, should it take office.

   
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