In a much-anticipated comment about Silvio Berlusconi’s conviction for tax fraud, president Giorgio Napolitano said the former prime minister must accept the verdict and not trigger a political crisis in the ruling coalition and force an early election, which would be “fatal” for the country.

Napolitano added that although he had received no request for presidential pardon, he would carefully consider one if it were to arrive, thus not ruling out the possibility as many expected he would.

However, the pardon would not lift Berlusconi’s ban on holding public office, and according to Il Fatto it would be granted only if Berlusconi stepped down from the leadership of the People of Freedom (PDL) party and abandoned direct political activity, opening the fight for the control of the centre right.

Berlusconi’s daughter, Marina, has meanwhile made clear that she will not succeed her father, as many had speculated.