Berlusconi drops allies allegedly linked to Mafia ahead of election

Wed, Jan 23, 2013, 00:00

Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has dropped allies accused of corruption and Mafia connections as election candidates, in a bid to shake off some of the scandal dogging his party.

Former minister Nicola Cosentino, whose power base is the heartland of the Naples mafia, was among a handful of MPs deselected from the party list for February’s general election.

“It was a very painful decision,” Berlusconi told his own Italia 1 TV station, blaming the need to drop Mr Cosentino on “politically biased prosecutors”.

Mr Cosentino has denied any wrongdoing and party officials said he was dropped only to avoid the issue being exploited by rivals.

The move is a gamble that may win the People of Freedom party votes but also risks losing support among the local power base of deselected politicians.

“This choice does not imply . . . those involved are guilty,” said Fabrizio Cicchitto, head of the PDL group in the lower house of parliament. – (Reuters)