Markets reacted nervously on Monday as Italy's
fragile left-right coalition government appeared on the brink of
collapse over former premier Silvio Berlusconi's legal woes, dpa reported.
The main index on the Milan stock exchange ended the day's trading
down by 2.1 per cent. Berlusconi's family firm, Mediaset, suffered
from the worst single drop, shedding more than 6 per cent of its
Earlier this month, Berlusconi was sentenced on final appeal to
four years' imprisonment, with a three-year remit, for tax fraud. His
supporters say they will bring down the government unless a way is
found for their leader to keep his Senate seat.
They have to work around a probity law that says people convicted
to more than two years' imprisonment cannot sit in parliament.
Berlusconi was also handed down a public office ban, but a lower
court has yet to say how long it should last.
The centre-left Democratic Party (PD), which is part of the ruling
alliance with Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL), has so far
refused to find loopholes that might save the former premier's
Berlusconi's party has threatened to walk out of the coalition
unless the levy is scrapped completely. Several government ministers
have warned that it would be too expensive, and have suggested
keeping the tax in place for wealthy homeowners.
Amid the uncertainty about his willingness to force a political
crisis, Berlusconi issued a statement urging his backers "not to
issue statements and interviews" that could heighten political
tensions and threaten the PDL's party unity.