Socialists pick leader amid Italian scandals

ROME - A veteran trade union chief, Giorgio Benvenuto, was elected leader of Italy's Socialist Party yesterday to replace the disgraced former prime minister, Bettino Craxi.

Mr Benvenuto, 55, received 307 votes at a party assembly against 223 for his only real rival, the Deputy Foreign Minister, Valdo Spini.

'I wish him luck - he and his party are going to need it,' said Marco Pannella, leader of the opposition Radical Party.

The Socialists, who count the Prime Minister, Giuliano Amato, among their members, form the second-biggest bloc in Italy's four- party ruling coalition. They have been battered by growing involvement in a huge bribery scandal and a disastrous showing in last April's general election.

Dozens of Socialists have been arrested on corruption charges and news last December that Mr Craxi himself was under suspicion provoked a deep split within the party ranks.

As judges sought to lift Mr Craxi's parliamentary immunity to prosecute him in connection with more than dollars 25m ( pounds 17.7) in suspect funds, the pressure on him to resign grew intense.

He finally stepped down on Thursday, after 16 years as unchallenged party leader, four of them as prime minister.

His main rival for the party leadership, Claudio Martelli, had also resigned as justice minister on Wednesday after being officially warned he too was being investigated. Mr Martelli was succeeded yesterday by Giovanni Conso, 70, a judge and former president of the Constitutional Court known for his strong defence of personal liberties before the law.

Mr Benvenuto became leader of the Unione Italiano del Lavoro (UIL), one of Italy's three main trade union groupings, in 1976. He resigned last year.

He was seen as the candidate most favoured by the party's old guard and may face criticism from the more ardent reformers who had until this week's crisis supported Mr Martelli.

In an acceptance speech Mr Benvenuto called for party unity and political reform. 'Everyone together - we have to take new responsibilities,' he said. Reform of Italy's electoral system and initiatives to combat unemployment would be party priorities, he added.

Initially regarded as a hardliner, Mr Benvenuto ended up with a reputation as a reformer and was jeered during last year's wave of union unrest by the militants he once championed. He is regarded as a close political associate of Rino Formica, a former finance minister who persuaded him last year to become the ministry's top civil servant. He still holds the post of director-general of the Finance Ministry.

When Mr Craxi stepped down on Thursday he said he wanted to devote his time and energy to defending himself against allegations that he was involved in the widening kickback and extortion scandal. While denying any wrongdoing, he has received six official notices that he is under investigation in connection with the scandal.

Socialists have been particularly hard hit by the scandal that has tainted politicians from all major parties. The alleged involvement of key party leaders and officials could weaken the leadership role of the Prime Minister, Giuliano Amato.

Mr Martelli, who denies any wrongdoing, was the first cabinet officer tainted by the scandal. News reports linked his name to a Swiss bank account the Socialist Party allegedly used to deposit money extorted in exchange for public-works contracts.

(Photograph omitted)

News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits