Prominent opposition governor steps down before Democratic Party primaries
Piero Marrazzo, a prominent opposition politician, resigned on Saturday after police were accused of blackmailing him with a video allegedly showing him with a transsexual. His Democratic Party was hoping Sunday's primary would revive its fortunes.
AFP - A key Italian opposition politician resigned on Saturday as his party prepared to elect a new leader after police were accused of blackmailing him with a video allegedly showing him with a transsexual.
Piero Marrazzo stepped down as governor of the Lazio region, which includes Rome, a day before the nationwide primary the Democratic Party hopes will revive its flagging fortunes.
"I decided to suspend myself...," said Marrazzo, adding that he would be replaced provisionally by his deputy Esterino Montino.
His decision came after local media said on Thursday that four police officers had been taken in for questioning, suspected of trying to extort up to 80,000 euros (120,000 dollars) from him.
Marrazzo, a 51-year-old ex-journalist and television star who has governed Lazio since 2005, had originally told the media he was the victim of a political plot aimed at toppling him. He said the video was false and ruled out stepping down.
The Democratic Party has been weakened by a series of recent electoral defeats.
The party is also preparing for another important test -- regional elections scheduled for the end of March at which it will face Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's centre right government.
Berlusconi has been plagued by a string of sex scandals -- including allegations that he entertained call girls at parties -- since his wife announced in May that she would divorce him after he attended a young model's 18th birthday.