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Umberto Bossi, Italian opposition leader, resigns

Umberto Bossi, the leading populist politician, resigned following a financial scandal.

Umberto bossi northern league populist resignsEnlarge
The head of the Northern League party, Umberto Bossi, resigned on April 5, 2012, after his party was engulfed by a financial scandal. (VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

Italy's leading populist politician Umberto Bossi resigned on Thursday after a financial scandal engulfed his Northern League party, said the BBC.

The Northern League is the only prominent opposition party to Prime Minister Mario Monti's government. Francesco Belsito, the party's treasurer, resigned on Tuesday after prosecutors alleged that he had used party funds to pay for the remodeling of Bossi's villa and holidays for Bossi's children.

According to the Guardian, Belsito was under investigation for money laundering, fraud and embezzlement.

Bossi, who founded and led the Northern League, has a political career stretching 30 years, and has denied any wrongdoing, according to the Guardian.

A source present at a meeting of the League's federal council quoted Bossi as saying, "I am resigning for the good of the movement and its activists." A member of European parliament, Matteo Salvini, told Radio Padania, "No one asked for Bossi's resignation. He arrived already convinced."

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Court documents found in a raid on the League's Milan headquarters revealed a wiretapped conversation in which Belsito and another party official were heard referring to "black" funds, which they said Bossi had passed to the League, according to the Guardian.

Bossi was known for his unorthodox and provocative rhetoric against the corruption of Rome, and the Northern League initially had a secessionist agenda before it became allied with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, according to Reuters. Analysts speculate that Bossi's departure could culminate in a power struggle within the League, with former Interior Minister Roberto Maroni possibly emerging as the leader.

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Meanwhile, Monti faced a revolt on Thursday from unions, employers and Italy's main center-right party, PDL, in connection with labor proposals which would have made it easier for companies to fire workers, said Reuters.

Even after Monti watered down the language, allowing courts to order employees to be reinstated under "very extreme and improbably" circumstances, Italy's largest union planned to hold a day-long general strike and 16 hours of work stoppages, according to Reuters.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/italy/120405/umberto-bossi-italian-opposition-leader-resigns