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Berlusconi Says He’s Powerless to Topple Letta After Party Split

Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said he’s powerless to topple Enrico Letta’s coalition government after Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano left the PDL party to form a group supporting the cabinet.

“We are not anymore in a position to push down the government,” Berlusconi said at a meeting of his People of Liberty party in Rome after Alfano decided last night not to follow him into a new group called Forza Italia.

The speech split the PDL, the second-biggest group in Letta’s parliamentary alliance, as its members voted to dissolve the party and join Berlusconi in Forza Italia. A group loyal to Letta led by Alfano, known as the moderates, didn’t attend the meeting and formed a new group, Berlusconi said.

Berlusconi, 77, is renewing his challenge as legal troubles place his political career in jeopardy. The loss of Berlusconi’s backing won’t necessarily unseat the government as Letta, 47, may have enough votes from dissident PDL lawmakers to retain a majority in the fractious Senate.

“The number of moderate MPs in the PDL is enough to guarantee the Senate’s math for its survival,” Chiara Corsa, an economist with UniCredit SpA (UCG) in Milan, said yesterday in a research report. “Healthy long-term generational shift in Italian politics is under way, but the next few months are likely to deliver noise and uncertainty.”

Waning Influence

Berlusconi’s influence in Italian politics has been in decline since April, when he helped bring Letta to power at the head of a makeshift three-party coalition. Criminal convictions and a push in the Senate to expel him have sapped Berlusconi’s clout. In October, Berlusconi’s first attempt to topple the government failed when a portion of the PDL, led by Alfano, defied him and backed Letta.

“How can we stay at the same cabinet meeting with someone how wants to kill you politically?” Berlusconi said today.

Letta’s Democratic Party, the biggest group in the coalition, has said it will support Berlusconi’s expulsion in a Nov. 27 vote in the upper house.

The rift with Letta came as the premier refused to help shield Berlusconi from his court-mandated punishment. Berlusconi’s tax fraud conviction, which was rendered definitive by the Supreme Court in August, ran him afoul of a 2012 anti-corruption law and required the Senate to consider his ouster.

Berlusconi said today Europe should abandon austerity policies and “change the mission” of the European Central Bank.

“The euro is for us a foreign currency,” Berlusconi said. “The ECB should become a last resort lender, grant the debt of the euro-countries and build a wall of banknotes against the economic crisis.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Tommaso Ebhardt in Milan at tebhardt@bloomberg.net; Andrew Frye in Rome at afrye@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net; Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net

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