Berlusconi Expelled from Senate in Italy


Having spent months manufacturing procedural delays or conjuring political melodrama, Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday could no longer stave off the inevitable: Italy’s Senate stripped him of his parliamentary seat, a dramatic and humiliating expulsion, even as other troubles loom on the horizon.

In the hours before the vote, Italian senators read speeches for or against Mr. Berlusconi, the once-powerful former prime minister. Mr. Berlusconi responded with an outdoor rally in central Rome, transforming the day into a televised, split-screen standoff: On one screen was the former prime minister, declaring himself a victim of persecution and pledging to remain a political force; on the other, the Italian Senate, with a majority of rival politicians, who finished their speeches and lowered the boom.

His expulsion came in a series of votes, and after a day of passionate arguments, the reaction in the chamber after the final tally was striking: a resigned silence.

Mr. Berlusconi, 77, is now staring at a cascade of stubborn realities. His removal from the Senate means he is without elective office for the first time in roughly two decades and that he has lost the special immunities awarded to lawmakers.

With other legal cases underway against him — and the possibility that new litigation could be filed — Mr. Berlusconi is now far more vulnerable than when, as prime minister, he seemed virtually untouchable, batting away sex and corruption scandals.

He also is expected to start performing one year of community service for the tax fraud conviction that is the basis of his removal from the Senate. Moreover, a court in Milan has ruled that Mr. Berlusconi cannot seek any public office for the next two years. For a man who once dominated Italy with a ribald swagger, Mr. Berlusconi is suddenly a sharply reduced figure, having recently watched several longtime lieutenants break away from him.

Determined to show his political viability, Mr. Berlusconi bused in supporters from around Italy for the rally outside his palace in central Rome. Braving the November cold, they waved flags and sang songs hailing their leader.

“It’s just unfair that they would condemn him when Parliament is full of people who are way worse than him, who have avoided taxes, stolen public money and worked against the people,” said Alessandra Abbate, 49, a supporter from Bologna. “This country would be nothing without him.”