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29 gennaio 2013

Berlusconi recalls Benito to pick up right-wing votes

by Isabella Bufacchi and Mariolina Sesto

Fascism, or rather the re-surfacing of fascism, entered an electoral campaign already marked by a number of twists and turns. Silvio Berlusconi, leader of the PDL, triggered a strong reaction with his remarks: "The racial laws were the worst fault of Mussolini, who in so many other ways did well". He said that on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, sparking uproar in Italy and abroad.

The EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom voiced her disapproval too. Many have asked themselves what on earth prompted the Cavaliere to tread such a slippery slope right in the middle of an election campaign. It seems hard to believe that a seasoned politician with several elections behind him would fail to take into account the fallout following such words. It is easier to believe that this was a deliberate strategy intending to woo the electorate of the extreme right. It must be remembered that the coalition of the center-right, in addition to PDL and Lega Nord, is made up of two other groups placed much further to the right: the so-called "Fratelli d'Italia" (Brothers of Italy, the National anthem of Italy) and "La Destra" (The right). The first group, which expects to poll around 1,5%, came out of a split within the PDL: some members of the old radical right - first "Movimento sociale italiano"(MSI) then "Alleanza nazionale" (An) including Ignazio La Russa, Giorgia Meloni and Guido Crosetto - left Berlusconi's party having once been part of it.

The second group is the movement of Francesco Storace, also a former member of An. Back in 2007, he was one of the first to leave what was Gianfranco Fini's party. Now he heads a small political party expected to get around 2% of the vote. Storace, among other things, is also running as a candidate for the center-right in a race for the presidency of Lazio, a debt-plagued Central region hit lately by political scandals. These were the potential constituencies to which Berlusconi was speaking when he commented favourably about Benito Mussolini. Words which were not censored yesterday by one of his closest associates, Renato Brunetta: "He said things that Italians think", the PDL economist remarket. Proving that what he said about fascism was not a gaff but something premeditated and thought out. The boomerang effect however did eventually force Berlusconi to rethink, but only after many hours of political turmoil, when he reminded us that "Mussolini's regime was a dictatorship." Finally, Berlusconi probably had in his sights another target: all those voters disappointed by the new political direction of Gianfranco Fini, former leader of the radical right, who after leaving the PDL in 2010 moved with his new political party Fli (Futuro e Liberta per Italia), steady at 1. 1% in election forecasts, to a more centrist position finally joining the coalition now headed by Mario Monti. In any event, if Mussolini should manage to help pick up a few votes, the PDL did not let the opportunity pass.
(Traduzione di James Tierney)

29 gennaio 2013