ROME – Three-time former Premier Silvio Berlusconi was ousted from parliament on Wednesday after two decades as a lawmaker, defiantly calling it “a day of mourning for democracy” and pledging to continue in politics.
After weeks of maneuvering, appeals and even an attempt to bring down the government, Berlusconi’s delay tactics ran their course when the Senate voted to kick him out of the chamber due to a tax fraud conviction.
Ever a populist, the 77-year-old billionaire chose the piazza over the Senate floor, addressing a crowd of cheering supporters outside his Roman palazzo as the vote was underway just a short walk away.
“We are here on a bitter day, a day of mourning for democracy,” Berlusconi declared. He said his political enemies – including the judiciary he accuses of mounting a campaign against him – were “toasting” his demise.
“They are actually euphoric,” he said.
Berlusconi pledged to remain in politics – effectively launching a campaign in which he won’t be able to stand for office – noting that other political leaders are not lawmakers.
The Senate vote bars Berlusconi from running or holding office for at least six years under a law applied to anyone sentenced to more than two years in prison.
Berlusconi was sentenced to four years on a tax fraud conviction relating to the purchase of TV rights to U.S. films on his Mediaset network, charges he continues to deny. The sentence was automatically reduced to one year by a general amnesty, which he will serve either under house arrest or doing public service.
In the last election, Berlusconi’s now-defunct and splintered People of Freedom Party garnered 7.3 million votes, or 21.5 percent of the vote.