ROME, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- Convicted former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Wednesday he plans to stay in politics even if he is expelled from the Senate.
Berlusconi, in a videotaped statement released shortly before a key committee vote, said he is still the leader of the country's center-right, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.
"I'll always be with you, whether I'm banned or not. You can have a political career outside Parliament," he said.
Berlusconi blamed his string of convictions on a conspiracy by liberal prosecutors and judges to get him out of politics. He called the judiciary "a counter power of the state capable of conditioning the legislative and executive powers with a mission to achieve socialism via judicial means."
Late Wednesday, a Senate committee rejected a proposal to allow Berlusconi to hold his seat even though the Supreme Court has upheld his tax conviction, the British newspaper The Independent reported. The vote opens the way for votes by the ethics committee and then by the entire Senate on his expulsion.
Berlusconi, 76, who got involved in politics after making a fortune in television, has been known for his conservative political and economic views and his lifestyle that has included lavish parties at his villas.