There was no alternative to the resignation, and even the hardcore Renzi supporters realized it immediately. It was useless, even harmful, to wait for the return of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. So, with a few lines addressed to the premier on Thursday, Federica Guidi said goodbye to the Ministry of Economic Development, pushed with her back to the wall by a wiretap of her fiance’s phone that implicated him in using his influence to pass beneficial oil legislation. It was a classic smoking gun.
Guidi said she is “absolutely certain of my good faith and fair dealing of my work.” However, “as a matter of political expediency,” she “must resign.” Never has the phrase “political expediency” been put to such good use. The wiretap could not have come at a worse time for the government. A short time from the municipal elections. So close to the referendum on drilling that, in the light of the amendment custom-written to Total’s interests, acquires even more importance and that just following the Potenza scandal, has become even riskier for the government.
The leaders of the Italian Left Scotto and De Petris, threatening a no-confidence motion against the minister, had immediately said: “From the defunding of alternative energy initiatives, to the attempt to sabotage the referendum, without forgetting Total’s amendment, the entire government has tended to favor the oil companies.” M5S had moved along the same lines, remembering its strenuous opposition to the amendment in question, but also Giorgia Meloni for FDI and even governor Toti, with a mocking tweet: “Guidi with oil, Boschi with the banks. But does anybody in this government work just as a minister?”
Silvio Berlusconi was the only exception in the unanimous chorus. He was the only opposition leader not asking for Guidi’s head. Instead he was the only one to lash out against eavesdropping, claiming they are “a serious weak point of democracy and a violation of the right to privacy protected by the constitution.” It is known that the former prime minister has a grudge against wiretapping, but to support a minister so evidently indefensible goes beyond reason. Thursday’s sortie, after the immense favor to the Democratic Party with the candidacy of Bertolaso in Rome, increases suspicions of a secret convergence between Berlusconi and Renzi.
Too bad that Berlusconi’s support, in such an affair, only increased the damage to Guidi’s image than helped it. The wiretap of the communication in which Minister Guidi informed in advance her partner Gianluca Gemini on the amendment that would have unlocked Total’s Tempa Rossa plant in the Senate, in which he had important interests, was too explicit to pretend nothing happened. Renzi probably realized there was no need to wait for his return home. Only the immediate resignation of the minister could try to put the fire out before it flared up.
First of all, for the passage of the wiretap of “Mariaelena.” It would be embarrassing even for a minister whose work was not in question. It is much more embarrassing for a minister, Mariaelena Boschi, on whom there were already strong suspicions of conflicts of interest. Then, because the episode is framed by an energy policy that is opposite to what Renzi boasted of with Obama and is designed for the benefit of the oil companies. But mainly because the sum of unfortunate episodes draws more and more clearly the framework of a government’s agenda that favors its friends, or those who can offer powerful support.
Both the Italian Left, with Scotto, and Raffaele Fitto clarified immediately that the matter cannot end like this, and that a “clarifying” hearing in front of the parliament is inevitable. The members of the 5 Stelle movement go beyond: “Minister Boschi got her hands dirty with oil. This makes more urgent than ever the scheduling of our confidence motion on her,” said the group leader in the Senate Nunzia Catafalco. There is no chance to pass that motion. But since Thursday the government is really weaker.