The days of Silvio Berlusconi's political career appear to be coming to an abrupt end. On Friday, an Italian Senate committee voted to recommend that former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi be expelled from the Senate as a result of his August conviction for tax fraud.
The move, which had been expected, came two days after Berlusconi's defeat in a vote of confidence on current Prime Minister Enrico Letta. Friday's Senate move is the second major setback for the Italian politician this week.
A final decision is planned within the next 20 days in the Senate, but the Immunity Committee's decision is considered an important precondition for expelling Berlusconi from public office. The Senators on the committee took a full five hours on Friday to deliberate the issue. Committee chairman Dario Stefano said the body had voted by a "majority" to recommend that the Senate vote to remove Berlusconi from office.
A 'Political Judgement'
Berlusconi himself did not appear at the meeting. He said he expected a "political judgement" against him that would be biased and not based on facts.
Despite his statement, the decision is in fact based on a law that stipulates that members of parliament whose conviction of a serious crime has been upheld must step down from office. At the beginning of August, a court upheld Berlusconi's conviction in the final appeal of a tax evasion case linked to his company Mediaset, and sentenced the former Italian leader to four years in prison. Berlusconi had originally been convicted over deals his firm made to purchase TV rights for American films in October 2012.
Berlusconi has argued that the law, which first went into effect in January 2013, cannot be applied retroactively to a conviction on tax offenses that occurred years ago. Berlusconi has also appealed his possible expulsion from the Senate to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and has demanded that the legislative body await its ruling before making any decision.
Both the former prime minister and his supporters have sought to defend the politician against the threat of being banished from the Senate. Earlier this week, Berlusconi even threatened to topple Letta's government by withdrawing important ministers. In the end, though, many of his supporters refused to back him up.