Flurry of scandals may hinder Italian PM Renzi’s bold reform plans

By Marzia De Giuli Source:Xinhua Published: 2016-5-8 19:43:01

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has recently been at the center of political debate on scandals that have hit the image of his center-left Democratic Party (PD), but the real challenge for his government appears to be long-term.

While his government is busy with a wide parliamentary calendar - the reform of the criminal process, civil unions, the law on competition, medical liability - the issue of whether the PD is able to hold the leadership has occupied growing space.

On Thursday, Renato Soru, a member of the European Parliament and former president of Sardinia region, quit as the secretary of the PD in Sardinia after he was sentenced to three years in jail.

Earlier this week, another PD member and mayor of Lodi, a city in northern Italy, Simone Uggetti, was accused of rigging tenders for public swimming pools.

"There is an investigation taking place and I have total faith in the magistrates," Renzi said in a radio interview, dismissing the speculation that the judiciary could be working to put his government at risk.

Last month, Economic Development Minister Federica Guidi resigned amid allegations of conflict of interest over her partner who was being investigated for corruption conspiracy and claiming influence over a public official.

These and other cases that made headlines in the local press mean the government's battles with political opponents have never been silenced.

On Wednesday, Renzi said that his party "has brought civil and penal suits" against vice president of the lower house Luigi Di Maio and other members of the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement (M5S). The remarks came after M5S, which is now the second largest political bloc in the parliament, raised doubts about the financing of PD and of Renzi's non-profit political think tank.

According to Aldo Cazzullo, a frequent commentator and political columnist for leading newspaper Corriere della Sera, the Renzi government has not been undermined by the recent cases.

Earlier this week, Renzi kicked off the campaign for a yes vote in an October referendum for his government's constitutional reforms to revamp the bloated state system.

At the center of the reforms there is the transformation of the senate into a smaller assembly of local government representatives with limited powers.

In Italy, changes to the constitution must be approved not only by parliament but also by citizens in a referendum in order to become valid. "If I do not pull it off, I will go home," said Renzi who has staked his political career on pushing through the much-awaited reform.

Cazzullo said it cannot be denied that the government is having some trouble, but the real challenge for the prime minister lies in the performance of Italian economy.

"Until Italy has a robust recovery, life will be always hard for any government in the country," he said.

The author is a writer with the Xinhua News Agency. The article first appeared on Xinhua. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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