Further strain has been heaped on Italy’s fragile 19-month government following the resignation of the country’s Justice Minister. Clemente Mastella stepped down after it was revealed he and his wife were facing allegations of corruption. Mastella’s Catholic Christian Democrats hold three seats in the Upper House – giving the centre-left coalition a wafer-thin majority.
Prime Minister Romano Prodi has refused to accept the resignation – and the party has vowed it will continue to support him. As Justice Minister, Massella clashed repeatedly with the judiciary. In his resignation speech, he denounced what he described as politically-biased state prosecutors who regarded him as an enemy.
Mastella’s wife, Sandra Lonardo, who runs the Naples regional council, said she had a clear conscience and claimed she was the victim of a witchhunt.
Mastella had previously threatened to resign over possible changes to Italy’s electoral law. Yesterday, the Constitutional Court approved plans for a referendum on raising the threshold for political parties to enter parliament.
The former Justice Minister’s party would be one of a number in the coalition which could lose out if it goes ahead.