ROME — A special panel of the Italian Senate on Friday voted to strip Silvio Berlusconi of his current seat, a humiliating blow for a man who has dominated Italy for the past two decades but whose political career is very much in jeopardy.
The expulsion vote against Berlusconi, based on his recent tax fraud conviction, represents his second setback of the week, after his failed attempt to bring down the country’s coalition government. The full Senate will probably decide by the end of the month whether to expel Berlusconi, though a vote against him is considered very likely.
Berlusconi, 77, a former prime minister and billionaire media mogul, who once wielded power with a swagger, had fought for weeks to prevent the expulsion vote. Many analysts say his effort to topple the government was partly intended to interrupt the proceedings against him in the Senate. But a mutiny of his center-right supporters forced him to make a public reversal and support the government in a parliamentary confidence vote.
“It’s a loss on all fronts for a man who is at the end of his career,” said Stefano Folli, a political commentator for the daily newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore. “Now his twilight will be swifter. This clearly has a highly political and symbolic value.”
Berlusconi, who has spent most of the past two months out of the public eye, must now prepare to begin serving a one-year prison sentence on Oct. 15, most likely under house arrest, for the tax fraud conviction. His legal troubles have shaken the center-right political movement he has led for the past two decades. With his career in trouble, several longtime protégés and followers abandoned him before the confidence vote and even spoke of splitting his People of Freedom Party.