From British daily The Guardian:
Rebel lawmakers announce they have signed letter of resignation from Freedom People’s parliamentary party
* John Hooper in Rome
* Friday 30 July 2010
Silvio Berlusconi‘s ruling Freedom People (PdL) movement was on the verge of a split last night that would pitch Italy into a political and constitutional crisis after a group of rebel lawmakers announced they had signed a letter of resignation from the PdL’s parliamentary party and delivered it to their leader, the lower house speaker, Gianfranco Fini.
The move came after the party leadership issued a vehement statement denouncing Fini, the co-founder of the PdL, for stirring up internal dissent and “devastating criticism of decisions taken by the party”. The statement brought to a head long-simmering tensions between the prime minister and the former neo-fascist who had been his principal ally since entering politics 16 years ago.
In fact, Fini’s conversion from fascism to non-fascism is even less credible than Cameron’s conversion from Thatcherism to non-Thatcherite conservatism (which still includes many unpleasant aspects, like the British Tories‘ alliance with Latvian neo-nazis and Polish homophobes). Even after supposedly ceasing to be fascist, Fini’s policies are still racist.
Fini has increasingly argued for more progressive policies, greater internal democracy in the PdL and a less tolerant attitude to suspected corruption among government and party officials.
The prime minister told a press conference afterwards: “We’ve tried everything to make it up with Fini. It hasn’t been possible. I am no longer prepared to accept dissent.”
Berlusconi demanded his former partner leave his job as speaker. But Fini was quoted by associates as having said the post was not in the gift of the prime minister and that he had no intention of going.
He was reported to have responded in the same way to calls for him to leave the PdL – at a meeting Fini was said to have told other senior party officials they would need to resort to the courts to remove him. But the latest statement from his followers indicated they were prepared to set up a separate group in parliament.
Berlusconi insisted his majority was safe, adding “the government is not at risk”. But sources in the Fini camp said that they could tip the balance in the 315-seat upper house and could count on the defection of “at least 34” rebels in the chamber of deputies. That would rob Berlusconi of his majority in the 630-seat lower house too, making his survival dependent on the goodwill of a conservative opposition Christian Democrat party. In such circumstances, he might be tempted to call a snap election.
The leader of the biggest opposition group, the centre-left Democratic Party, Pierluigi Bersani, said: “This is a crisis. Berlusconi must come before parliament.”
But it remained to be seen whether Fini and his supporters would leave and, if they did, how many deputies would join their new group. Fini said he had no intention of resigning from the speaker’s role because of the letter of censure, which stopped short of expelling him from the party.
In an interview with Il Foglio newspaper on Thursday, Fini said he was prepared to come to an agreement with Berlusconi.
“Let’s reset everything, without resentment,” he said. “Berlusconi and I don’t have a duty to be friends or even to appear to be friends, but we should honour a political and electoral commitment with the Italian people.”
The speaker of Italy’s lower house and former ally of Silvio Berlusconi, the prime minister, has refused to step down after being censured by his own party: here.
See also here.
Italy’s ‘summer of homophobia’: here.
Berlusconi laughs it up with sexist, Hitler and gay bashing jokes: here.