Who is Anna Maria Cancellieri?
Seventy-year-old Anna Maria Cancellieri has been Italy’s justice minister since April.
Why is she in the news?
Late on Wednesday afternoon, Cancellieri survived a no-confidence vote in parliament, after she was accused of abusing her office by helping a family friend move from prison to house arrest.
Giulia Ligresti was imprisoned following an investigation into false accounting at insurer Fondiaria-SAI, which her family controlled until last year. Ligresti, who reportedly suffers from anorexia and anxiety, was jailed along with her sister while her father was placed under house arrest.
Cancellieri came under scrutiny after phone call transcripts were published which appear to show her promising Ligresti’s family she would deal with the case.
Critics have said the minister has a personal interest in the case as she is a friend of the family. Cancellieri’s son, Piergiorgio Peluso, also earned several million euro working as an executive at Fondiaria-SAI.
This sounds bad. How did Cancellieri defend herself?
The minister said she has a clean conscience as she never asked for Ligresti to be moved to house arrest. She simply asked prison authorities to do a health evaluation – a “humanitarian intervention based on the possibility that an inmate could have died”.
"My personal relationships have never influenced my government work," the minister said, arguing that she had acted the same way in numerous other cases.
Is she used to fighting such political battles?
No. Cancellieri is not a career politician and has spent much of her working life as a magistrate across Italy. Such work has seen her posted everywhere from the northern city of Bergamo to Catania, Sicily’s second-largest city.
It wasn’t until 2011 when, at the age of 68, she entered frontline politics. After Silvio Berlusconi resigned from the premiership, Mario Monti was appointed prime minister and Cancellieri was brought in as the interior minister.
She stayed on in the post until April this year, when she was named justice minister by the new Prime Minister Enrico Letta.
What do other people say about Cancellieri?
As an independent politician, Cancellieri has received support and criticism from all sides.
Since the case surfaced, Prime Minister Enrico Letta has stood by Cancellieri. Letta is perhaps unwilling to lose a second minister just months after Josefa Idem, minister for equalities and sport, resigned over a tax scandal.
Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano, leader of the New Centre-right, a breakaway group from the People of Freedom (PdL) party, also said he trusts Cancellieri.
But Matteo Renzi, mayor of Florence, has broken with Letta, a fellow Democratic Party (PD) member, and called for Cancellieri to resign.
Aside from these key politicians, the Five Star Movement (M5S) collectively rallied against the minister, calling for the confidence vote. It is, however, worth noting that the M5S, known as Italy's protest party, frequently calls for Italy's leading politicians to be ousted from power.
What next for Cancellieri?
She will continue in her ministerial post, but will be under even greater scrutiny than before. Cancellieri’s opponents could continue to delve into the case, despite the minister being backed by the prime minister and the majority of MPs.