Rome's mayor ousted, saying PM stabbed him in the back

Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino adjusts his glasses during a news conference in Rome, Italy, in this file photo taken on Oct 20, 2015.
Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino adjusts his glasses during a news conference in Rome, Italy, in this file photo taken on Oct 20, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

ROME (Reuters) - Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino, complaining that he had been stabbed in the back by Italy's prime minister, was ousted on Friday (Oct 30) night after a weeks-long political drama that riveted the country.

Marino's administration of more than two years came to a crashing end on Friday when all 26 city councillors stepped down.

He has been tainted by an expenses scandal and first tendered his resignation three weeks ago under pressure from Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, causing a deep rift in their Democratic Party (PD). He has denied any wrongdoing.

On Thursday, he exercised his right to withdraw his resignation within 20 days as prescribed by law and vowed to defend his record.

But the move backfired less than 24 hours later with the mass resignation, including 19 councillors from the PD.

Marino, speaking at city hall, just a few blocks from the spot where Julius Caesar is said to have been stabbed by conspirators, used Shakespearian language as he spoke of his fate. 

"Those who have stabbed me have 26 names and they have one instigator," he said in reference to the councillors and to Renzi, who complained later on Friday that Marino had lost touch with the people.

Marino told a noisy news conference the councillors had shown "a total lack of respect for the citizens" who had elected him.

The interior ministry is expected to name a commissioner to run the Italian capital until new elections can be held, most likely in the spring.

Many Romans complain city services such as trash collection, road maintenance and transport have got worse under Marino.

The mayor's supporters say he inherited a disastrous situation from his right-wing predecessor, who is under investigation for corruption. They have held several rallies in his defence since he first announced his resignation.

Next week a major trial of dozens of politicians and businessmen arrested at the end of last year for allegedly rigging public contracts is set to start in Rome.

Marino is not implicated and is expected to appear at the trial to present the Italian capital as an injured party.

With the mainstream parties on the left and right weakened by corruption scandals, polls say the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement is now Rome's most popular party and would be in pole position if new mayoral elections were to be held soon.