Silvio Berlusconi may be one of Italy's most popular politicians, but the premier's approval ratings are sinking fast with at least one Italian - his wife.
Veronica Lario publicly voiced her rage over reports that Berlusconi's party was lining up a troupe of TV showgirls and starlets as candidates for June's European Parliament elections.
A spokesman for the conservative Freedom People party said the reports were unfounded, adding that the official list of candidates would be presented later yesterday. Berlusconi contended the reported plans were a fabrication of the opposition and left-leaning media.
Berlusconi has already faced trouble at home and widespread criticism for flirting with women and filling his political ranks with female stars, including a Cabinet minister.
Two years ago, Lario received a quick and public apology from Berlusconi when she wrote to a newspaper complaining about a compliment her husband had paid to TV starlet Mara Carfagna, now the minister for equal opportunities.
Late on Tuesday, Lario released a statement to the ANSA news agency, slamming the party's alleged election plans as "shameless rubbish" that offended her, her children and women in general.
"Somebody has written that this is all for the entertainment of the emperor," she said. "I agree. What emerges from the newspapers is shameless rubbish, all in the name of power."
Lario's public rage came after days of debate in which even Berlusconi's allies raised eyebrows over reports by left-leaning newspapers that the party's candidates could include a Big Brother contestant as well as actresses and models.
Alessandra Mussolini, a right-wing politician and a former actress, ironically suggested the leading coalition should also have male models run for office as a measure of fairness.
Lario was less subtle in her criticism. "The impudence and shamelessness of power offends the credibility of all (women), damages women in general and especially those who have always struggled to defend their rights," Lario said.
"I want to make clear that my children and I are victims and not accomplices in this situation. We must bear it and it causes us to suffer," she told ANSA.
Lario, also a former actress, is Berlusconi's second wife and the couple have three children.