Uproar as showgirl set to run for Silvio
He has spent weeks denying reports that his party would stack its list of candidates with attractive young models or actresses, but yesterday Silvio Berlusconi appeared to have succumbed to temptation.
The Italian prime minister has apparently chosen a showgirl turned dental hygienist with no political experience to contest crucial elections next month. Mr Berlusconi (73) was apparently unable to resist the charms of Nicole Minetti, whom he met when his teeth were being repaired after he was attacked in Milan in December.
Despite the furore and the wrath of his wife last year when he attempted to promote a string of glamorous women as candidates for the European elections, Miss Minetti is reportedly now on a shortlist to run for Mr Berlusconi's People of Freedom party (PDL) in Lombardy, northern Italy.
A former dancer who has appeared on television variety shows, she graduated as a dental hygienist last November and within weeks was tending to the prime minister for two broken teeth and a smashed nose.
But she may not be the only pretty face in the ranks of Mr Berlusconi's party, as it seeks to consolidate its hold on power in the elections in 13 of Italy's 20 regions next month.
Graziana Capone, a law graduate and model who has been called "the Angelina Jolie of Puglia", the southern region from which she hails, was recently hired to help mould Mr Berlusconi's image on television, it was reported yesterday. She had also been touted as a possible candidate in the elections.
"Berlusconi chooses candidates more for their good looks than for their experience," said Anna Finocchiaro, the senate leader of the Democratic Party. "He's filled parliament with beautiful girls, albeit competent, but they don't count for anything within the party."
Loyalists within the ranks of his party hit back. Margherita Boniver, an MP, said: "I'm astonished. You only have to look at the CVs of our candidates to understand that they are people who are dedicated to politics."
Barbara Saltamartini, an MP who has responsibility for equal opportunities within Mr Berlusconi's party, said Miss Finocchiaro's remarks had shown "she is an enemy of women".
Last year the PDL proposed fielding a collection of actresses, models and reality television starlets as candidates for the European parliament elections. Mr Berlusconi's wife, Veronica Lario, branded the plan "shamelessly tacky" and a week later demanded a divorce. (©Daily Telegraph, London)