The man Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi has tapped as his possible political heir has stepped down as justice minister to concentrate on shoring up their party's popularity.
President Giorgio Napolitano on Wednesday accepted the resignation of Angelino Alfano. As justice minister, Alfano was an architect of judicial reforms that Berlusconi critics say were tailor-made to help the premier in legal woes stemming from his billionaire business empire. Berlusconi insists the reforms help all Italians.
Berlusconi has picked Alfano to reinvigorate his conservative Freedom People party after setbacks in local races nationwide this spring. Berlusconi recently repeated his intention not to run again after his term ends in 2013.
The new justice minister is Nitto Palma, a magistrate-turned-politician who has been a lawmaker from Berlusconi's party.