Italian Senate committee delays decision on Berlusconi vote

Reuters
Italian center-right leader Berlusconi leaves the Senate in Rome
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Italian center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi sits in his car as he leaves the Senate in Rome, October …

ROME (Reuters) - An Italian Senate Committee on Tuesday postponed a decision on whether a vote to expel former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi from the upper house should be secret, further delaying the moment when his political fate will be sealed.

The vote in the full Senate will decide the future of the billionaire media magnate, who has dominated Italian politics for the past two decades. Another Senate committee recommended earlier this month that Berlusconi, 77, should lose his seat following a conviction for tax fraud.

A meeting to decide on the voting procedure, scheduled for Tuesday, was suspended until Wednesday to allow the Senate to vote on measures cutting public administration spending.

Berlusconi's center-right loyalists have been fighting a running battle to delay or block a vote on his Senate expulsion, ever since the supreme court in August confirmed his fraud conviction.

They want a secret vote in the hope that some rebels from the other parties may support him in defiance of their leaders.

The Senate is dominated by Berlusconi opponents from leftist groups including the Democratic Party, which rules with the media magnate's center-right in an awkward governing coalition, and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement. So the Senate is expected to vote to strip him of his seat.

The conviction involved a massive fraud at Berlusconi's Mediaset broadcasting empire. The supreme court sentenced him to four years in jail - commuted to one year under a previous general amnesty. He has asked to serve the sentence doing community service.

The decision over his future has been one of the most sensitive issues facing Prime Minister Enrico Letta's left-right coalition, which came close to collapsing last month when Berlusconi pulled his ministers out of the government.

(Reporting By Catherine Hornby; editing by Barry Moody)

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