Rome

Pressure mounts on Berlusconi party governor in Lazio

Opposition parties quit in protest over corruption scandal

Pressure mounts on Berlusconi party governor in Lazio

(ANSA) - Rome, September 24 - Pressure was mounting on Monday for Lazio Governor Renata Polverini of former premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party to quit because of a big corruption scandal in the region. The scandal erupted earlier this month when the PdL's then regional chief, Franco Fiorito, was placed under investigation for suspected embezzlement of party funds. Investigators are looking at around 800,000 euros of financial transactions linked to Fiorito. On Sunday councillors for the main parties in opposition in the regional assembly, the centre-left Democratic Party, the leftist SEL and the anti-graft IdV, quit in protest at the scandal. If the councillors of the centrist UDC party, which supports Polverini's administration, also step down the government of the region around Rome will collapse. Polverini met PdL Secretary Angelino Alfano, who last week said the governor was a "victim", in the House on Monday for talks on the crisis caused by the case. The scandal is seen by many as a threat to the PdL's chances of maintaining its position as the biggest party in parliament in next year's general elections. The PdL are currently trial far behind the PD in second place in the polls. Berlusconi has not decided whether he will run for a fourth term as Italian premier next year at the head of the PdL ticket. Polverini last week hinted she would step down and said that she had been "betrayed by a system that has existed for years". But she subsequently said she had "suspended" her resignation and announced cuts in spending by local politicians to raise up to 20 million euros to divert to health and social services. On Monday a senior Catholic clergyman commented on this scandal and a series of other recent ones that have hit various parts of Italy's political spectrum. "Rome is a city where the social fabric is irritated by the scandals, by the privileges (of the political class) and the repeated unscrupulous crimes in which there are some people who are well off and many who are badly off," said Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Vicar General of Rome.

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