Resignations from Berlusconi's party put Italy's government in danger
Italian center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi pulled his ministers out of the cabinet on Saturday, effectively bringing down the government of Prime Minister Enrico Letta and leaving the eurozone's third-largest economy in chaos.
Talks will now start to find a parliamentary majority to back a new cabinet and avoid an election just seven months after the last one.
The relentless political jockeying that has defined Letta's five-month tenure has thwarted efforts to push through important reforms Italy needs to emerge from a two-year recession, a decade-long economic lethargy, a 2-trillion-euro public debt and youth unemployment of about 40 percent.
The resignations will delay those reforms even further.
On Friday, Letta had challenged Berlusconi's party to support him in a confidence vote in parliament.
Late on Friday, the cabinet failed to agree on vital fiscal measures to bring the budget deficit within European Union limits, leaving the fragile coalition of traditional rivals from the left and right near total breakdown.
Tensions between the two sides had been rising for weeks following moves to expel Berlusconi from parliament after his conviction for tax fraud last month.
The Friday cabinet meeting had been intended to find funding to avert an increase in the sales tax rate from 21 percent to 22 percent. That increase, which has been fiercely opposed by Berlusconi's center-right party, will now kick in from Tuesday.
“The decision taken by Prime Minister Enrico Letta to freeze government activities, and therefore setting off an increase in sales tax, is a serious violation of the pacts on which this government was formed,” Berlusconi said in a statement.
Letta shot back later in the evening, accusing the former prime minister of telling a “huge lie” and of using the sales tax issue as an alibi for an action motivated by his legal problems.
Lawmakers from Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL) party this week threatened to walk out of parliament if a Senate committee meeting on October 4 voted to begin proceedings to expel their leader, who will turn 77 on Sunday, under legislation that bars convicted criminals from parliament.
Some opposition politicians called for early elections, but Deputy Economy Minister Stefano Fassina, from Letta's Democratic Party, said he expected a new coalition could be formed.
“I don't see elections. We won't go to them. We will find a solution in parliament,” Fassina told La7 television. “I am sure there is a majority in parliament able to avoid elections.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Putin sends air defense missiles to Syria to deter Turkey
- Russian pilot rescued by Syrian commando unit
- Turkey shoots down Russian jet it says violated its airspace
- Vatican puts 5 on trial for leaks
- Philippines reappraises hoard of Marcos jewelry
- Liberia has 1st Ebola death since being deemed free of disease in September
- Tunisia put under state of emergency
- Settlement spat surfaces as Kerry visits Jerusalem
- ISIS claims hotel attack in Egypt
- Official: Paris attacks organizer was planning more carnage
- 2 arrested in Vatican leaks scandal