Matteo Renzi, who will fight for his re-election as leader of the Democratic Party on April 30, has been weakened by defeat in a December constitutional referendum which led to his resignation as premier. His party has split with rivals challenging him for the leadership, and leftist dissidents abandoning it. The government of Premier Paolo Gentiloni, a Renzi ally and Democratic Party member, now rests on a more fragile parliamentary majority... "If the investigation goes ahead, it will surely hurt Matteo Renzi's prospects even if he has nothing to do with it," said Sergio Fabbrini, director of the school of government at Luiss University in Rome.


The anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which has made denunciations of political corruption one of its main platforms, has seized on the case. It submitted on Thursday a parliamentary vote of no confidence against Sports Minister Luca Lotti, a close ally of Matteo Renzi, which will test the government's majority.


With elections due by early 2018, Five Star has 27.1 percent support against 26.9 percent for the Democratic Party, according to an opinion poll by the Ixe Institute for RAI state television published on Friday. The anti-immigrant Northern League has 12.8 percent, while the Forza Italia party of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi has 12.7 percent.

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