‘World’s most beautiful’ Italian minister to quit


ROME: One of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s best known ministers said on Sunday she will resign after confidence votes next month that could trigger elections.
Equal Opportunities Minister Mara Carfagna told Il Mattino newspaper that she would back the government in the December 14 votes but resign the next day from the cabinet and also from 74-year-old Berlusconi’s party.
She said she had been sidelined in the government and criticised Berlusconi for losing control of his conservative People of Freedom (PDL) party which had degenerated into a series of feuding gangs. She was particularly critical of the handling of a garbage crisis in her native southern region of Campania, around Naples.
Carfagna said she would also leave parliament and had no intention of joining Berlusconi’s former ally Gianfranco Fini, whose split with Berlusconi deprived him of his parliamentary majority and has prompted next month’s crunch votes.
Lower House speaker Fini split from the PDL in the summer, accusing Berlusconi of stifling internal debate and running the government like a company in his vast business empire. Fini is thought to command the support of more than 40 deputies and senators, enough to topple the government if they vote with the centre-left opposition in the confidence votes, which would force Berlusconi to resign.
However, the situation is fluid, with Berlusconi trying to woo some of Fini’s followers back into government ranks. On Saturday, despite his mounting problems, he said he was still confident he would win the votes comfortably. Carfagna’s decision is the latest blow for the media tycoon, whose approval ratings have been battered by a weak economy and problems spanning corruption scandals among his ministers to uproar over his dealings with a teenage nightclub dancer.
Court documents released last week showed judges believed one the prime minister’s oldest friends had served for years as a mediator between Berlusconi and a top mafia boss. Carfagna, a former showgirl and topless model, is often described as a symbol of Berlusconi’s approach to politics. German Newspaper Bild called her “the most beautiful minister in the world” when he appointed her in 2008, aged 32 and with little political experience.
Berlusconi’s admiration for her had already made headlines the year before when his wife, from whom he has since split, demanded a public apology after he told Carfagna at a gala dinner “I would marry you if I wasn’t already married.”