Italian coalition on the brink over Berlusconi

ITALIAN Prime Minister Enrico Letta returns from a visit to New York today to face the threat of a government collapse following renewed threats from Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right party to pull out of his fragile coalition.

Letta will immediately meet President Giorgio Napolitano to discuss the crisis, which has loomed ever closer since Berlusconi was convicted of tax fraud last month and sentenced to four years in prison, commuted to a year under house arrest or in community service.

The sentence has prompted fury in the centre-right and repeated threats to pull out of the unwieldy coalition with Letta’s centre-left Democratic Party, formed after February’s deadlocked parliamentary elections.

On Wednesday lawmakers from Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party threatened to resign en masse if a special Senate committee meeting on 4 October voted to strip their leader of his seat in the upper house following his fraud conviction.

Letta said the threat was “a humiliation, not of me personally, but of Italy”.

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