ROME – About 20 Italian centre-right lawmakers may break
with leader Silvio Berlusconi if he tries to bring down prime
minister Enrico Letta’s coalition in a dispute over Berlusconi’s fraud
conviction, a centre-right party source warned today.
In a move that may give Letta, from the center-left, a chance
to save his government following the resignations of five ministers
from Berlusconi’s People of Freedom, some 20 PDL senators will
tell the party leader today they may form a breakaway group in the
upper house, the source told Reuters.
“If Silvio doesn’t agree to take a step back from what the
hawks are proposing, we could have a new moderate group by
Wednesday,” the source said.
The comment slightly revived prices of Italian stocks and bonds,
which have suffered from the prospect of new uncertainty and
lack of economic reforms as former premier Berlusconi fights an
impending expulsion from the Senate following his conviction.
An inconclusive election in February led to the formation of a
fragile left-right coalition under Letta two months later.
Berlusconi’s decision to order the five ministers to resign
on Saturday has plunged Italy into political chaos and left the
euro zone’s third-largest economy without a fully operational
government, prompting warnings that its sovereign debt rating
is at risk.
The move also deepened splits between hardline “hawks” and
moderate “doves” in Berlusconi’s party. A day after they resigned,
all five ministers expressed reservations about their move, which
came after a week of growing tensions. Other PDL lawmakers have
also openly dissented with the resignations.
Centre-right lawmakers will meet Berlusconi at 5 p.m.
(1500 GMT) in what is likely to be a stormy encounter ahead
of a confidence vote in parliament on Wednesday where Letta is
openly counting on support from PDL dissidents.
The source said the senators were ready to form a new
conservative group separate from the center-right force that
Berlusconi, a billionaire media magnate, has dominated ever since
he entered politics in 1994. (Reuters)