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PD accused of 'double standards' in undersecretary row

Probe notice insufficient for resignation, says party

06 March, 16:56
PD accused of 'double standards' in undersecretary row (ANSA) - Rome, March 6 - The centre-left Democratic Party (PD) of Premier Matteo Renzi came under fire Thursday for allegedly applying two weights and two measures in relation to four undersecretaries from the party facing criminal investigation after saying they would not be asked to resign.

On Tuesday the firebrand leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) Beppe Grillo called for the resignation of Culture Undersecretary Francesca Barracciu, Transport Undersecretary Umberto Del Basso de Caro, Health Undersecretary Vito De Filippo and Interior Undersecretary Filippo Bubbico, under investigation respectively for for allegedly embezzling party funds, missing expense reports and abuse of office.

His call came after Transport Undersecretary Antonio Gentile of the New Centre Right (NCD), a minor ally in Renzi's left-right coalition, stepped down amid accusations he strong-armed a local newspaper not to publish a piece about allegations his son was implicated in corruption in health-sector contracts.

However Parliamentary Relations Minister Maria Elena Boschi of the PD told parliament that the government would not "ask for resignation of ministers or undersecretaries on the basis of a notice of investigation".

Former agriculture minister Nunzia Di Girolamo of NCD denounced the "double standards" of the centre-left "which behaves in one fashion with us, with Berlusconi and with all those who see things differently, while it is very permissive, libertarian and sometimes distracted with its own party members".

Di Girolamo herself bowed to calls to resign from the cabinet led by Renzi's predecessor Enrico Letta in January following the publication of transcripts of recordings of her conversations regarding health-sector appointments in the southern province of Benevento stemming from an investigation in which she was however not being probed.

"We are telling Renzi to avoid applying two weights and two measures, the law is equal for all undersecretaries," said Ignazio Messina, leader of the small centre-left party Italy of Values (IdV), adding that the PD knew its four undersecretaries were under investigation when they were nominated. However on Wednesday Deputy Premier and NCD leader Angelino Alfano said his party "respected the PD's decision" concerning its undersecretaries.