ROME, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti's
cabinet introduced new rules on Thursday to keep convicted
criminals out of politics, as Silvio Berlusconi's scandal-ridden
People of Freedom party withdrew its support for the government
With national elections expected in the next few months, the
measure is aimed at restoring credibility to a political system
shaken by a series of scandals. Italy's audit court has
estimated that corruption costs the state about 60 billion euros
($77.92 billion) per year.
The measure, which would apply to definitive convictions
upheld by two appeals courts, was not the reason for Thursday's
political tensions, People of Freedom (PDL) Secretary Angelino
Alfano told reporters.
He said it was Monti's economic policy that prompted his
party to withdraw its support in two confidence
However Berlusconi's PDL party has been the hardest hit of
the main parties by recent corruption probes, and the former
premier himself has had a long battle with magistrates over the
last 20 years.
In October, a PDL member of Lombardy's regional government
was arrested on suspicion of buying votes from the Calabrian
mob, a scandal that later forced the governor of the country's
wealthiest region to call a vote three years before the end of
A separate corruption scandal involving a PDL politician
brought down the local government in Lazio, the region around
the capital Rome.
The 76-year-old Berlusconi, who has repeatedly been tried
for corruption and is currently facing three trials, will still
be able to run for parliament - as he strongly hinted he would
do on Wednesday - under the new rules because he has never been
Under the new rules, anyone definitively convicted of
serious crimes will not be allowed to run for all levels of
public office for at least six years following conviction, and
depending on the gravity of the crime, perhaps longer.
Italian media have estimated that as many as 20 members of
the current parliament may not be able to run again because of
The measure will be reviewed by parliamentary commissions
but because it was already approved as part of a broader
anti-corruption law in October, it does not have to be voted on
($1 = 0.7700 euros)
(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Jon Hemming)