The ruling conservatives were rocked yesterday by the surprise resignation from the New Democracy party of one of its deputies amid claims that an associate of his had been connected to an allegedly corrupt judge. Petros Mandouvalos (photo), who holds one of the Piraeus seats in Parliament, said he would stay on as an independent until the «villainous» allegations against him had been disproved. Weekend media reports claimed that a close associate had been charged with bribing Evangelos Kalousis, a judge who has been linked to an alleged trial-fixing ring. «This is organized villainy,» said Mandouvalos claiming that rivalries in his party had been the main driving force behind the allegations against him. «I cannot act as a brake on the prime minister and the government, even if I have done nothing wrong,» the MP added. Mandouvalos took the unusual step of announcing his resignation to the media before having discussed his intentions with government officials or Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. Coming less than three weeks after the resignation of former deputy economy and finance minister Adam Regouzas, Mandouvalos’s decision is a big blow for the government. Regouzas stepped down after a videotape of him speaking at a function organized by a television station owner facing criminal charges was aired. ND still maintains a clear parliamentary majority but yesterday’s resignation has compounded fears within the Cabinet, sources said, that sections of the media are intent on mounting a campaign to tarnish the ruling conservatives as being corrupt. Several government officials have filed lawsuits against media outlets in recent weeks after a string of corruption allegations were made public. «New Democracy has a big responsibility for this bleak picture over the last few weeks, which is poisoning political life,» said PASOK Secretary Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou. Meanwhile, former leader and current MP of Synaspismos Left Coalition Nikos Constantopoulos met with President Karolos Papoulias to ask him to convene a council of political leaders to tackle the issue of the media’s behavior.