Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi has come under new political pressure following confirmation that his father is under investigation, charged with "trafficking in [political] influence" in relation to a a €2.7 billion public contract.
The disclosure came in advance of a potentially decisive assembly on Sunday being held by Mr Renzi’s political party, the Partito Democratico (PD).
Since the constitutional reform referendum defeat that prompted his resignation as prime minister in December, Mr Renzi has been under pressure to hold a day-of-reckoning-style party congress.
Earlier this week, former party secretary Pier Luigi Bersani called for a serious reflection on both the heavy referendum defeat and also the record of the government led by Mr Renzi for three years.
“We have lost contact with parts of the electorate on crucial questions such as work, education, taxation and economic policies,” Mr Bersani said.
“The younger generation looks on us with hostility. The repeated defeats of the last two years and the clear loss of party members and voters have both been totally ignored, whilst every request for a serious debate has been silenced.”
Essentially, the leftist rump of the party, which contains senior figures such as Mr Bersani and former prime minister Massimo D’Alema, believes Mr Renzi is loath to face a process of critical, internal analysis. Rather, they feel that he is keen to move on to a party congress that would re-elect him as party leader and de facto PD candidate for prime minister at the next general election.
Accordingly, the leftist minority, perhaps motivated by the consideration that many of them would not be handed a party nomination at the next election, have threatened to provoke a party split.
His rivals suspect that, having been reconfirmed as party leader, Mr Renzi might then press for an immediate election, undermining current prime minister and party comrade Paolo Gentiloni in the same manner as that in which he unseated the PDs' Enrico Letta in 2014.
To that end, Mr Renzi is expected to resign as party leader on Sunday, opening the way for a party congress and "primaries" which he seems certain to win, given his tight control over the party after three years in office. Pollsters estimate that he might win 49.7 per cent of the party vote, well ahead of his closest rival, president of Puglia Michele Emiliano, who is on 7.4 per cent.
It remains to be seen if the involvement of Renzi snr in this latest corruption investigation impacts negatively on his Renzi jnr. Tiziano Renzi has denied all wrongdoing, totally rejecting the public prosecutor's allegation that he had been willing to use his "influence" to help Neapolitan magnate Alfredo Romeo win a €2.7 billion contract from CONSIP, the state body which furnishes and provides all Italian state offices and buildings.
Further indication of the tense moment in the PD emerged yesterday in the shape of off-air, open-microphone comments by infrastructure minister and Renzi supporter Graziano Delrio, who appeared to accuse Mr Renzi of doing little to avoid a possible party split this weekend.