Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right party has split, in the latest blow for the scandal-tainted billionaire ex-premier, who may be voted out of parliament at the end of the month.
Following late-night talks, Berlusconi’s former right-hand man Angelino Alfano announced he would not remain at the side of his onetime mentor and would form his own party.
“I am here to make a choice that I never thought I would make – not to join Forza Italia,” Alfano said late on Friday, referring to Berlusconi’s project of relaunching his People of Freedom (PDL) party under the name it carried when he first entered parliament in 1994.
Alfano announced he was forming a new group called The New Centre Right, which media reports on Saturday estimated would lure away about a third of PDL’s deputies in the parliament and the Senate.
The 43-year-old Alfano said he made the decision because “these past few weeks have shown to what extent extreme forces have prevailed within our movement”.
Berlusconi’s party has been in turmoil ever since the former premier tried to bring down the government by pulling his ministers out of the cabinet at the end of September, and was forced into a humiliating back-down when the ministers refused to heed his orders.
The 77-year-old flamboyant tycoon on November 27 will face another humiliation – the prospect of being stripped of his parliament seat when the Senate votes whether to eject him under a law banning convicted criminals from the chamber.
The move comes after the Italy’s supreme court on August 1 turned down his final appeal in a tax fraud case, handing Berlusconi his first-ever definitive conviction in a long history of legal woes. Berlusconi has asked to serve his 12-month sentence as community service.
Ejection from the Senate would mean Berlusconi being out of parliament for the first time since 1994, when the media and construction magnate first burst onto Italy’s political scene.