MILAN: 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 on 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
"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
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
"Personally, I don't think we can remain sitting next to people who want to be the butchers of
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
However the PDL itself 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 sense of confusion hanging over the political world in
Italy can ill-afford disarray: the euro zone'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 infighting within the
"There is something irrational in the behaviour of Silvio Berlusconi at the moment, which can only be explained by a state of great personal torment," the Corriere della Sera, Italy's biggest daily, said in a front-page editorial.
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
But the uncertainty has reawakened memories of the turmoil that scuttled Berlusconi's last government at the height of the euro zone debt crisis in 2011. Financial markets have been increasingly twitchy as threats to political stability have
The centre-right says the law under which Berlusconi could be expelled from parliament is unconstitutional and should not apply to the former premier as it was passed after the events over which he was
The PD in turn has accused the centre-right of using "blackmail" to try to save Berlusconi and says it will vote to strip him of his
President Giorgio Napolitano, who would be responsible for dissolving parliament and calling new elections, has made it clear he does not want to see a return to the ballot box and may seek to appoint a new coalition if the PDL pulls
There has been speculation that rebels from the centre-right or the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement may provide alternative parliamentary support for Letta, who was named prime minister after weeks of wrangling in the wake of a deadlocked February election which left no party able to govern
Reluctance to consider a new vote has also been increased by fears that the current, much-criticised electoral law, which is being reviewed by the constitutional court and could soon be overturned, would only produce another stalemate.