Berlusconi backs government at rally against his tax conviction

City A.M. Reporter
THOUSANDS of supporters of Silvio Berlusconi protested in Rome yesterday against a tax fraud conviction that has rocked Italy’s fragile coalition, but the centre-right leader said the government must continue.

Addressing the 2,000-strong crowd, a subdued Berlusconi again bitterly attacked what he calls leftist judges and insisted he was innocent, but said he would continue to support the shaky coalition of his center-right People of Freedom (PDL) party with the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) of Prime Minister Enrico Letta.

“We have said loud and clear that the government must go forward to approve the economic measures that we asked for and were agreed,” Berlusconi told the rally, making clear that he was in no rush to force a snap election as some of his hawkish supporters have demanded.

“What drives us is not our personal interests. Always the interests of everyone and of our Italy come first.”

Dressed in a navy t-shirt under a suit jacket, the 76-year-old’s restrained performance was a contrast to his usual ebullient public appearances and his voice cracked several times during the address.