A Brothers of Italy politician who collects fascist memorabilia has been elected speaker of the upper house of parliament in the first step towards the formation of Italy’s most right-wing government since the second World War.
Ignazio La Russa, a former defence minister whose father was secretary of Benito Mussolini’s fascist party, co-founded Brothers of Italy alongside leader Giorgia Meloni, who is poised to become prime minister of a government that includes Matteo Salvini’s far-right League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.
Voting for the election of a speaker to the lower house, which could go to the League’s Riccardo Molinari, will enter a second round on Thursday afternoon.
The new parliament was opened by Liliana Segre, a 92-year-old Holocaust survivor and life senator who, in a speech that triggered a standing ovation, reminded parliamentarians of the 100th anniversary of Mussolini’s March on Rome later this month.
“It is impossible for me not to feel a kind of vertigo remembering that the same little girl who, on a day like this in 1938, disconsolate and lost, was forced by racist laws to leave her empty desk at primary school, is now, by a strange twist of fate, at the most prestigious desk in the senate,” said Ms Segre, who went on to speak out against discrimination and hatred.
Like Ms Meloni, Mr La Russa, whose middle name is Benito, began his political career with the youth wing of the Italian Social Movement, the party set up in 1946 by supporters of Mussolini.
In recent days a video of him has emerged showing off fascist relics, including photos, medals and a statue of Mussolini, on display in his home. The clip was filmed in 2018. “There’s even a communist symbol, but we put it beneath the feet [of the Mussolini statue],” La Russa says in the video.
Ms Meloni has tried to distance Brothers of Italy from its neo-fascist roots, issuing a video in August saying the party had “handed fascism to history” decades ago. She instead presents the party as a conservative champion of patriotism and claimed last year there were no “nostalgic fascists, racists or anti-Semites in the Brothers of Italy DNA”.
In September, Mr La Russa’s brother Romano, a councillor for Brothers of Italy in the Lombardy region, was filmed making the stiff-armed fascist salute at a funeral of a far-right militant. The party’s response was that “he was inviting others to lower their outstretched arms”.
The Italian president, Sergio Mattarella, will begin formal consultations with the political parties on October 19th or 20th, with Meloni expected to be given the mandate to form a new government a few days later. The alliance is working on its cabinet list and a Meloni-led government is expected to be sworn in by the end of the month. — Guardian