Berlusconi accused of ‘crazy’ gesture as resignations force coalition crisis

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Italy’s fragile coalition government has been pushed into crisis after ministers from former premier Silvio Berlusconi’s political party announced their resignations.

The resignation of the five ministers, which were announced but not yet formally tendered, drew the wrath of premier Enrico Letta, who accused Berlusconi of a “crazy” gesture aimed at covering up his personal affairs.

The five-month-old government has teetered for weeks since the high court confirmed Berlusconi’s tax fraud conviction.

Berlusconi’s centre-right People of Liberty Party is in an unusual coalition of rival forces with Mr Letta’s centre-left Democratic Party, and the resignations signals the end of the alliance. The resignations must be formally submitted to President Giorgio Napolitano, who must decide if there is any way to continue the government or if new elections must be held.

The announcement by the centre-right ministers came after Berlusconi urged ministers in his party to step down if the government does not revoke an increase to Italy’s value-added tax.

Tensions already were swirling around a senate committee vote next week on whether to revoke Berlusconi’s legislative seat because of the tax fraud conviction.

Nearly all of Berlusconi’s senators have vowed to quit if he is stripped of his seat.