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Mario Clemente Mastella (born 5 February 1947) is an Italianmarker politician. He is currently leader of Popular-UDEUR, a minor centrist Italian party. He was Minister of Labour in the Berlusconi government from 10 May 1994 to 17 January 1995, and Minister of Justice in the Prodi government from 17 May 2006 to 17 January 2008. In addition Mastella is also mayor of his native town, Ceppalonimarker.

Political career

Mastella was born in Ceppalonimarker, province of Benevento.

A former long-time member of the Christian Democracy party and Member of Parliament since 1976, after the break-up of his party in 1994 Mastella founded a new party, called Centro Cristiano Democratico, together with Pierferdinando Casini. After the victory of Silvio Berlusconi in the 1994 elections, he was successively appointed as Minister of Labour.

In 1998, after the fall of Romano Prodi's first government, Mastella decided to follow Francesco Cossiga, lifetime senator and former Italian Republic President. He left his party to found the Cristiano Democratici per la Repubblica, then Unione Democratici per la Repubblica. This new political party, which supported the new centre-left government led by Massimo D'Alema, lasted only one year however; in 1999, Mastella took over the leadership of UDEUR (then Popular-UDEUR).

In 2005, Mastella decided to take part in the primary election for the leadership of The Union. He obtained 4.6% of the votes.

Clemente Mastella and the President of the Sicilian Region Salvatore Cuffaro were involved in a scandal when it was found that they had been the best men of Francesco Campanella, a former member of the Mafia that helped the boss Bernardo Provenzano during his absconding. In July 2000, Mastella was a witness at Campanella's wedding.

Minister of Justice

In 2006, Mastella became minister of Justice in the Prodi government. Mastella promoted a general amnesty in 2006. He also proposed the penalising Holocaust denial, but the proposal was dropped after opposition by historians and concerns about such a law being unconstitutional.

As Minister of Justice, Mastella received an "Advice of Judicial Proceedings" in February 2007 from the Naples prosecutors’ office. He is being investigated for fraudulent bankruptcy when the Naples football club S.S.C. Napoli collapsed in 2004. Mastella was vice president of the Board of Directors.

In September 2007 he has asked the Higher Council of the Magistracy to arrange the transfer of the prosecuting attorney of Catanzaro Luigi De Magistris, who was inquiring on a committee of illegal transactions composed by politicians (including Mastella himself) and magistrates.

In May 2007, Mastella opened a blog of his own ( clementemastella.blogspot.com) in retaliation to criticism by the Italian comedian and political activist Beppe Grillo.

Mastella's wife, Sandra Lonardo, is also a UDEUR politician, and she acts as president of the Regional Council of Campania. She has been under house arrest for suspected bribery since January 16, 2008. Meanwhile, Clemente Mastella resigned from his position as Justice Minister; in announcing his resignation, he said that "between the love of my family and power I choose the former" and expressed his desire to be "more free from a political and personal point of view". Prodi rejected the resignation, but on January 17 Mastella said again that he was resigning. Prodi was to temporarily take over his portfolio.

2008 Italian political crisis

Despite having earlier said that he would support Prodi's government without participating in it, on January 21 Mastella said that his party was ending its support, thereby depriving the government of its narrow majority in the Senate. Mastella said that UDEUR wanted an early election and that it would vote against the government if there was a vote of confidence.

Mastella's decision occurred a few days after a decision by the Constitutional Court which confirmed that there would be a referendum to modify the electoral system. As stated many times by Mastella, if the referendum was confirmed this would lead directly to the fall of the government and in fact this is what happened.

The fall of the government disrupted a pending election-law referendum that, if it had been passed, would have made it harder for small parties like Mastella's to gain seats in parliament.

On February 6, 2008, Mastella announced that he would be part of Silvio Berlusconi's "Casa della Liberta". but on March 1, Berlusconi refused to form a coalition with Mastella, citing too many differences in their political programmes.

After failing to secure a coalition with any other political party, Mastella decided to quit the electoral competition on March 7, as the Italian electoral system subjects political parties not a part of a coalition to thresholds of 4% and 8% for the Chamber and the Senate, respectively.

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