Nov. 27 - Supporters of former Italian President Silvio Berlusconi gather outside his Rome residence ahead of a Senate vote widely expected to oust him from parliament. Rough Cut (no reporter narration)
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Supporters of Italy's embattled former President Silvio Berlusconi gathered outside his Rome residence on Wednesday ahead of an evening vote in the Italian Senate that is expected to see the veteran center-right leader stripped of his seat in parliament over a tax fraud conviction. Berlusconi is expected to address the rally as voting takes place, underlining that he will remain a troublesome opponent to the government even outside parliament. The protest will be "only the beginning", Berlusconi warned earlier this week, saying it would be followed by a series of actions to "defend democracy", though he no longer commands enough support in parliament to bring down the government. A Senate committee has proposed declaring Berlusconi ineligible for parliament after he was convicted of masterminding a complex system of illegally inflated invoices to cut the tax bill for his Mediaset television empire. Under a law passed with Berlusconi's support last year, politicians convicted of serious criminal offenses are ineligible for parliament, but his expulsion must first be confirmed by a full vote in the Senate. The court sentenced him to four years in jail, commuted to a year likely to be spent performing community service. He was also banned from holding public office for two years, preventing any immediate return to government. The vote, after months of political wrangling, will open an uncertain new phase in Italian politics, with the 77-year-old media billionaire preparing to use all his extensive resources to attack Prime Minister Enrico Letta's coalition government. Berlusconi, who has dominated politics in Italy for two decades, has already pulled his party out of Letta's coalition after seven months in government, accusing leftwing opponents of mounting a "coup d'etat" to eliminate him.