Berlusconi left off list awarded Italian life senator honor
By Steve Scherer
ROME (Reuters) - Silvio Berlusconi's allies reacted angrily on Friday after Italian President Giorgio Napolitano left the centre-right leader, who risks being ejected from parliament after a tax fraud conviction, off a list of new lifetime senators.
Napolitano had been pressed by members of Berlusconi's People of Liberty party (PDL) to grant their leader the honor bestowed on former heads of state and distinguished personalities in the arts and sciences.
But in a move that sends a clear political message to Berlusconi that he will receive no special treatment, Napolitano kept him off a list of four life senators named just a week before voting starts on whether to strip Berlusconi of his parliamentary seat under a law passed last year.
The appointees enjoy the full powers and privileges of being a lawmaker for life - including some legal immunity - meaning he could continue to wield influence after being found guilty and sentenced to four years of house arrest or public service that was commuted to one year.
The parliamentary committee begins its deliberations on September 9 but the decision has to be approved by a vote in the full chamber.
Berlusconi and his allies have threatened to bring down the government they support along with Prime Minister Enrico Letta's center-left Democratic Party if the PD votes to oust him, as it has said it will.
The former prime minister issued what he called a "precise warning" in a telephone call to supporters at a rally in northern Italy, saying that while it would be "annoying" if the government collapsed, the center right would not allow the left strip him of his political leadership role.
Regarding the four new life senators, Daniela Santanche, an adviser to the center-right leader, said Berlusconi was more qualified than any of them. "Without taking anything away from the four new life senators, I do not think they measure up to Berlusconi," she said in a statement. Continued...