ROME, March 4 Italian Prime Minister Matteo
Renzi lost the first member of his government after an
undersecretary resigned following allegations he had pressured a
local newspaper not to publish a damaging story about his son.
In itself, the resignation of one undersecretary is unlikely
to have any impact on Renzi's ability to govern but it
underlined the complex challenges facing his broad coalition as
he prepares to launch potentially painful economic reforms.
Antonio Gentile, undersecretary for infrastructure from the
small centre-right party in Renzi's coalition, announced his
resignation in the face of mounting pressure from the media and
A powerful local party boss from the southern region of
Calabria, Gentile was under no formal investigation and
consistently denied any wrongdoing. In an open letter announcing
his resignation, he said he was stepping down only "as a
demonstration of the correctness of my behaviour."
Gentile was accused of pressuring the local newspaper "L'Ora
della Calabria" not to publish an article that implicated his
son, a manager in the local health authority, in a scandal over
The editor of the newspaper refused the request but the
publication never appeared on newsstands because the daily's
press suffered a technical problem the night the edition was
The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement said before Gentile
resigned that it would file a no-confidence motion in parliament
against him and several members of Renzi's own Democratic Party,
including 150 local politicians from Calabria, also said he
should step down.
(Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Mark Heinrich)