- The Washington Times - Friday, August 3, 2007

ROME — Italy’s Christian Democrats are demanding extra pay so they can visit their wives and combat the loneliness that they say drove one parliamentarian to bed two call girls in a scandal rocking Rome’s political establishment.

Cosimo Mele, 50, resigned from the opposition Union of Christian Democrat Centrists (UDC) this week after admitting that a young woman had taken ill in his bedroom at the swanky Flora Hotel on the tourist-famed Via Veneto on Friday night, evidently from a drug overdose.

The affair outraged many Italians because the UDC champions family values and has campaigned for stricter drug laws.

Mr. Mele acknowledged that the woman, identified only as Francesca Z., was a prostitute but said he was introduced to her by friends and initially he had not realized her profession.

Francesca told investigators that Mr. Mele gave her cocaine, and police were questioning the second woman, judicial sources said.

On Wednesday, UDC leader Pier Ferdinando Casini had a mobile laboratory set up in front of the Montecitorio parliament, where legislators were invited to provide blood and urine samples to prove that they are drug-free.

More than 100 deputies took part in what many commentators described as staged political theater.

Mr. Mele showed scant remorse for his adventure despite being married with three children and a fourth expected soon.

“I did nothing other than go to dinner with a friend who introduced me to this girl. Since it was late, she came to bed with me. How many politicians go to bed with young girls?” he said.

Asked whether he had paid for the encounter, he told the Corriere della Sera newspaper: “Not really. I made her a gift, a sum of money, but nothing excessive.”

He said he had nothing to do with the other girl who had “taken drugs or something else.”

He added: “Of course I recognize Christian values. But what has that got to do with going with a prostitute? It is a personal matter.

“This affair has nothing to do with family values. I cannot be branded a bad father and a bad husband simply because after five or six days away from home, an occasion presented itself.”

He said he had decided to resign from the UDC because of the party’s tough stand on family values.

Party secretary Lorenzo Cesa suggested that parliamentarians should receive financial assistance for family reunions to help them ward off the temptations of a lonely life in Rome.

“The life of a parliamentarian is tough; solitude is a very serious problem,” Mr. Cesa said.

Not everyone was sympathetic.

Carlo Giovanardi, a leading member of the party, said the UDC should improve its recruitment policy.

“We can’t proclaim ourselves the first in the class and then not be able to demonstrate it, exposing ourselves to the facile humor of our allies and adversaries,” he said.

Silvana Mura, a deputy with the pro-government Italy of Values party, was also scathing.

Mr. Cesa’s family reunion proposal was “frankly risible,” she said.

Francesco Caruso, a legislator with the Communist Refoundation party, spoke of the “shameless and alarming hypocrisy of the UDC.”

The staging of announced drug tests eliminates any element of surprise, he said, and will simply mean the “suspension for two days of the sex-and-coke parties organized by their friends and deputies in luxury hotels and on board their yachts off Naples.”



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