Berlusconi's model minister to resign
SILVIO Berlusconi's shaky government is about to witness another minister jump ship -- a former Miss Italy contestant and model who was a favourite of the troubled prime minister.
Mara Carfagna (34) was a minor TV celebrity when she was noticed by Mr Berlusconi and catapulted to the top of the political ladder.
He rapidly made her minister for equal opportunities in 2008 and she has always been close to the 74-year-old prime minister
So her announcement yesterday that she would resign after a confidence vote next month that could trigger elections will be a personal blow.
Ms Carfagna told 'Il Mattino' newspaper that she would back the government in the December 14 vote but resign the next day from the cabinet and also from Mr Berlusconi's party.
She said she had been sidelined in the government and criticised Mr Berlusconi for losing control of his conservative People of Freedom party, which had degenerated into a series of feuding "gangs".
She was particularly critical of the handling of a rubbish crisis in her native region of Campania, around Naples.
Ms Carfagna, a former showgirl and topless model, said she would leave parliament and had no intention of joining Mr Berlusconi's former ally Gianfranco Fini, whose split with Mr Berlusconi deprived him of his parliamentary majority and has prompted next month's crunch vote.
Mr Fini is thought to command the support of more than 40 deputies and senators, enough to topple the government if they vote with the centre-left opposition in the confidence vote, which would force Mr Berlusconi to resign.
However, the situation is fluid, with Mr Berlusconi trying to woo some of Mr Fini's followers back into government ranks. On Saturday, Mr Berlusconi said he was still confident he would win the vote comfortably.
Ms Carfagna's decision is the latest blow for the media tycoon whose approval ratings have been battered by a weak economy and problems spanning corruption scandals among his ministers to uproar over his dealings with a teenage nightclub dancer.