World Bulletin / News Desk
The Italian parliament's anti-mafia committee released the names of 17 local election candidates suspected of graft or organised crime links on Friday -- an embarrassment for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi before local elections on Sunday.
The highest profile name was Vincenzo De Luca, the candidate for Renzi's Democratic Party (PD) for president of the southern Campania region, who is accused of corruption and has a conviction for abuse of office.
Around 22 million voters go to the polls on Sunday in seven of Italy's 20 regions and more than 1,000 municipalities in the biggest test for Renzi since the centre-left PD triumphed in last year's European elections with 41 percent of the vote.
Counting on signs of economic recovery after three years of recession, Renzi is hoping for a strong result to claim a mandate to continue his reform agenda and overcome resistance from both opposition parties and left-wingers in his own party.
However, the scandal surrounding De Luca in the crime-ridden region around Naples has overshadowed the campaign, taking some shine off improved economic data on Friday which confirmed the economy had returned to growth in the first quarter of the year.
"This campaign has been more about the quality of the class of leaders and the candidates than it has been about policies," committee chairwoman Rosy Bindi told reporters.
De Luca, a powerful local party baron, was named with 12 other "impresentabili" or "unpresentable" candidates in Campania and four others in the southeastern region of Puglia.
Renzi has backed De Luca and he dismissed the scandal as "inwardlooking and far from reality".
He apparently did not expect De Luca's name to feature on the list, saying the day before it was released that he was sure they would all be minor figures and that none would be elected.
The names, all of whom have been sent to trial in the past for mafia-related offences or crimes such as racketeering or money-laundering, came from both centre-left and centre-right parties and were combed from the names of 4,000 candidates.
The announcement will not stop the candidates standing in Sunday's election, although De Luca may be banned from taking office because of a conviction for abuse of office when he was mayor of the southern town of Salerno.Güncelleme Tarihi: 29 Mayıs 2015, 18:25