Friday, July 12, 2013

Berlusconi's party stops Parliament for 24 hours to discuss his court ruling over tax fraud sentence

Back to Berlusconi’s trials again (I know, it's hard to keep track of them all).
We are now referring to the tax fraud sentence of his company Mediaset. Berlusconi was sentenced to 4 years for inflating the prices of movies the company bought in order to avoid taxes. He turned to the appeal court, and now Italy's highest court (the Court of Cassation) has set 30 July as the date for the hearing, a much earlier date than expected.
The Court explained that they had to choose such an early date because, according to the law, they had to prevent the statute of limitations from expiring on one of the charges.
Following that announce, Berlusconi’s lawyers claimed that this was an attack on the defence’s rights. His party’s The People of Freedom went beyond, claiming that this was a “coup d’état towards the government, Italy and democracy”. In other words, they are acting as if the court were doing this merely to convict Berlusconi.
Yesterday, The People of Freedom asked Parliament for an interruption of work, in order to discuss the case within the party.

It was a real political earthquake. The Democratic Party eventually had to accede, and both the Chambers of Deputies and the Senate stopped working for 24 hours, despite the protests of Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement.
It wasn’t an easy decision for the Democratic Party, which is really divided on the topic (as on any other topic, for what matters). Leader Epifani defined The People of Freedom’s request as “unacceptable and irresponsible”, but then tried to minimize the whole episode.
On the one hand, they had to give in because Berlusconi’s party is in government with them. On the other hand, they are looking worse each day. In any other country, someone like Berlusconi would have been voted out of Parliament a long time ago. In Italy, it is not even sure what will happen if a conviction actually is upheld.
Berlusconi’s party is threatening a government crisis if he is convicted. The Democratic Party is threatening to vote in favour of the conviction if it does take place. Long story short, everyone has something they can use to threaten their opponents. Parliament might not be blocked now, but that changed very little. It is still, only, discussing Berlusconi’s affairs. While the country sinks.