Rome: A close ally of Italian Prime Minister
Silvio Berlusconi resigned from his ministerial post on Monday to
face corruption charges in an affair that is threatening the
stability of the centre-right ruling bloc.
Berlusconi stirred up a political storm two weeks ago
when he appointed Aldo Brancher, a former executive at his
Fininvest media group, as a minister without portfolio.
The opposition said the appointment was to enable
Brancher to exploit rules that allow ministers to delay
attending trials in which they are defendants.
Brancher and his wife are accused of illegally receiving
more than one million euros between 2001 and 2005 from Banca
Popolare Italiana, notably in its takeover attempt of Banca
Brancher told a court in Milan on Monday that he was
resigning to bring about "a rapid resolution to this affair",
a decision that was backed by Berlusconi in statement.
His appointment as a minister was severely criticised by
the opposition, which in a rare display of unity tabled a
no-confidence motion in parliament.
The affair has increased the cracks in Berlusconi`s
centre-right majority, with powerful parliamentary speaker
Gianfranco Fini tacitly threatening to vote with the
opposition in the motion.
According to the Italian media, the Brancher affair has
the potential to be one strain too far on the ruling bloc,
which has been weakened by disagreements between Berlusconi
and Fini on a number of issues, most notably Berlusconi`s
push for a law limiting wiretaps.