Sept 09 - A special Italian Senate committee meets to consider expelling Silvio Berlusconi from parliament over his conviction for tax fraud, but it may take weeks to reach a decision, delaying a showdown which could shatter the fragile ruling coalition. Sonia Legg reports
He's been convicted of tax fraud. And many Italians know where they stand when it comes to Silvio Berlusconi's future. (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) STUDENT STEFANO CANGIANO SAYING: "He wants to keep enforcing his political will - he doesn't seem to understand that resigning would be the dignified thing to do." (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) BUSINESSMAN ONOFRIO CAPOGRASSO SAYING: "It's terrible, in a democratic country he should feel the responsibility to resign, it shows us in a terrible light." But Berlusconi has his supporters and political crisis could result if he is expelled. Senior figures in his People of Freedom party have threatened to pull out of the fragile coalition governing the country. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DEPUTY DIRECTOR LUISS SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT, GIOVANNI ORSINA, SAYING: "I believe that if Berlusconi is voted out of the Senate, that is going to be an enormous problem and there is going to be... it can have very serious consequences." Political expert Giovanni Orsina also believes the former Prime Minister hasn't yet decided on a definite course of action. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DEPUTY DIRECTOR LUISS SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT, GIOVANNI ORSINA, SAYING: "There is a measure of irrationality, he is very angry and he, I think he seriously believes he has been wronged by the judges. And I am told he is oscillating between one course and the other, so predictions are very difficult." This first Senate committee meeting won't seal Berlusconi's fate - several more are likely over the coming weeks. But expulsion - says Guy Dinmore from the Financial Times - is the likely outcome. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ROME CORRESPONDENT FINANCIAL TIMES, GUY DINMORE, SAYING: "I think there's quite a strong possibility that the Senate will eventually vote to throw him out. I think it would be very difficult for the Democratic Party, which is after all the biggest party in parliament, to avoid that question." Financial markets are increasingly on edge over the potential crisis and Italy's borrowing costs have risen. But HSBC's Daragh Maher says the response to elections earlier this year shows there's no need to panic. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HSBC FOREX STRATEGIST, DARAGH MAHER, SAYING: "We had a messing about with coalitions for a number of weeks but the Italian bond markets really took it in it's stride and I think that's because they knew the OMT from Draghi was potentially there in the background you weren't going to get into a self-feeding spiral in the bond market and by extension you don't get the sense that Italy posed the next threat to the euro." But Italy will have to face plenty more potential banana skins as it struggles to tackle a massive deficit. And even if Bersluconi is eventually expelled - he could be back. He may be 76 but he's also challenging the law that excludes him from running for office for a fourth time.