And we're back!
Started by Sheilbh, February 10, 2021, 08:54:57 AM
QuoteRussian links to Italian right threaten Meloni's election campaignOpponents of the right are demanding to know if Vladimir Putin brought down Mario Draghi's government.After Mario Draghi's coalition government collapsed, plunging Italy into fresh turmoil, an unsettling question is hanging in the air: was the Kremlin involved?Two incidents involving contact between right-wing party chiefs and Russian diplomats have triggered a round of finger-pointing in Rome as the election campaign gets into gear.The row threatens to damage the standing of Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the popular far-right Brothers of Italy party, who stands to become prime minister at the head of a new right-wing coalition after the poll on September 25.At stake more broadly is Italy's international reputation and the question of whether Rome will remain a solid and dependable part of the Western alliance against Vladimir Putin's aggression in Ukraine.In the first incident, in May a Russian embassy official asked a foreign affairs adviser to Matteo Salvini — Meloni's ally in the far-right League party — if he intended to pull his ministers out of Draghi's coalition, according to La Stampa newspaper on Thursday, which cited intelligence reports.The second incident centers on Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's former PM and a long-time ally of Putin's. Berlusconi, who leads the center-right Forza Italia party, spoke to the Russian ambassador on the day that he withdrew his backing for Draghi's government, according to reports in La Repubblica on Friday.Salvini has dismissed the report and Berlusconi is yet to comment. But opponents of the right are kicking up a fuss.Enrico Letta, leader of the center-left Democratic Party, and former PM Matteo Renzi called for an investigation by the parliamentary intelligence committee. "The election campaign is beginning in the worst possible way," Letta said. "We want to know whether it was Putin who brought down the Draghi government. If that was the case it would be of the utmost gravity."Lia Quartapelle, foreign affairs spokesman for the Democrats, told POLITICO that the reports were "scandalous" and would not help Meloni's chances of becoming PM. "Allies will be watching with great concern I imagine. If any government spoke like this even to the U.S. embassy in this way it would be a problem, and we are talking about the Russian embassy." Quartapelle said that the reports on Salvini or Berlusconi would not improve Meloni's chance of becoming prime minister, but were damaging for the entire right.The newspapers' reports reinforce the impression that Italy's right-wingers are too close to Putin.Both Salvini and Berlusconi have well-established relationships with the Russians. Over the years Salvini has often expressed his admiration for Putin, saying he could be prime minister of Italy, and wore a T-shirt of Putin's face to the European Parliament. Salvini has also spoken out against sending more arms to Ukraine.Salvini was forced to cancel a "peace mission" to Russia in May after it emerged that his parallel diplomacy effort did not have government authorization, and the Russian embassy had paid for his flight to Moscow.As for Berlusconi, he was reportedly critical of Draghi's position on Ukraine after the call with the Russian ambassador, who claimed that the invasion was necessary because the risk was that Ukraine would attack Russia.In his time as prime minister, Berlusconi established a personal rapport as well as a political friendship with Putin based on shared economic interests. His criticism of Putin since the invasion has been muted, only saying that he was disappointed in the Russian leader.Their ambivalence over Ukraine may appeal to a substantial chunk of voters who are against sending weapons to Kyiv and who regard Russia and Ukraine as equally at fault.Salvini's political stronghold includes the Italian northern manufacturing power base that does a lot of business with Russia and is being harmed by sanctions. But the ambiguity is likely to harm the credibility of Salvini and Berlusconi's ally on the right, Meloni, who is leading the polls. She has taken a clearly pro-NATO position that Russia is the aggressor since the beginning of the war, as she attempts to portray herself as a respectable and safe pair of hands."If a new Italian government is more sympathetic to Russia, it would be a concern to Italy's allies," historian Margaret MacMillan, professor at Oxford University, told POLITICO, adding that the Americans will likely be watching with alarm. "Italy could be placing itself in the same pro-Russian camp as Hungary and Serbia and become a concern for Germany and France."Salvini dismissed the reports and the concerns as propaganda from the left. He told MPs in a message: "A desperate and divided left, with some foolish servant in some newsroom, passes their time to look for fascists, Russians and racists which don't exist. The 25th September finally we will have change."A League spokesman said that the person who spoke to the Russian embassy official, Antonio Capuano, has never been a formal part of the League, although has advised them from time to time.A spokesman for Berlusconi did not immediately return requests for comment.
QuoteScepticism over Giorgia Meloni's claim 'fascism is history' in Italian far rightCritics say message is part of election game plan and point to recent speech on immigration and homosexualityA declaration by Giorgia Meloni, who could be Italy's next prime minister, that her far-right party has consigned fascism to history has been greeted with scepticism.In a video message issued on Wednesday, Meloni, who leads Brothers of Italy, a party with neofascist origins, said the Italian right had "handed fascism over to history for decades now" and "unambiguously condemns the suppression of democracy and the ignominious anti-Jewish laws".In the video, spoken in English, French and Spanish and directed at the foreign press, she said Brothers of Italy was nowadays more akin to "the British Tories, the US Republicans and the Israeli Likud".Brothers of Italy leads a coalition that includes Matteo Salvini's far-right League and Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia, which is forecast to win general elections on 25 September.The video sparked a row with her rival Enrico Letta, the leader of the centre-left Democratic party, who implied her comments were merely cosmetic.Meloni has worked hard to remould her party, pitching it as a conservative champion of patriotism. In her book, I Am Giorgia, she insisted she did not belong to "the cult of fascism".However, there are clear signs that Brothers of Italy, a descendant of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), a party set up by a minister in Benito Mussolini's dictatorship, has not completely severed ties with its past.Meloni joined the youth wing of MSI at the age of 15. Among the first people she met was Marco Marsilio, the current president of the Abruzzo region.MSI later morphed into the National Alliance, whose youth movement was led by Meloni before the party was dissolved and she went on to found Brothers of Italy.Brothers of Italy has retained MSI's tricoloured flame in its official logo and its headquarters is at the same address, on Via della Scrofa in central Rome, where MSI set up office in 1946.Mussolini's granddaughter Rachele, a member of Brothers of Italy, won the most votes in Rome's council elections last October. Enrico Michetti, who was the party's mayoral candidate, said during his campaign that the stiff-armed Roman salute, which has fascist connotations, ought to be revived as it was more hygienic in times of Covid-19.A few days after the elections, Meloni told Corriere della Sera there were no "nostalgic fascists, racists or antisemites in the Brothers of Italy DNA" and that she had always got rid of "ambiguous people".AdvertisementMore recently, Meloni, whose motto is "God, family and country", travelled to Marbella where she expressed her hardline views on immigration and homosexuality during an aggressive speech at a rally held by her party's Spanish far-right counterpart Vox."The video [on Wednesday] is so different from the speech she gave at Vox," said Luciano Cheles, a professor emeritus of Italian studies at the University of Grenoble. "She's cunning ... obviously she adapts her appearance and attitude to the audience."Cheles's research has found that fascist imagery was used in posters, brochures and anthems of the National Alliance youth wing and later Brothers of Italy, and that Meloni's slogans frequently echo those of Mussolini.In July, when Mario Draghi's government collapsed, Meloni took to the stage in Piazza Vittorio, a square in a multicultural area of Rome, and told her supporters: "We've had three different governments, three different majorities [since the March 2018 general elections]. Have any worked? No. History has proved us right."Cheles said: "In an interview with a fascist journalist five days before his death, Mussolini said: 'History will prove me right ... a young person will rise, a leader who will inevitably agitate the ideas of fascism.' I don't think what Meloni said at Piazza Vittorio was purely accidental. The very phrase is so pompous, but in the far right when you mention 'history' you mean fascism."Other than Abruzzo, Brothers of Italy has led the Marche region since 2020. On 28 October 2019, Marche's current president, Francesco Acquaroli, attended a commemorative dinner to mark the anniversary of Mussolini's "march on Rome" along with several Brothers of Italy mayors.Pietro Perini, the son of a second world war resistance fighter and president of a unit of ANPI, the anti-fascism organisation, in the Marche town of Ascoli Piceno, said: "If she really wants to take a distance from fascism, then why did she go to Spain to speak at the Vox rally?"It's only words, she's just campaigning for the elections," he said. "And after 25 September, I'm pretty sure the Mussolini commemorative dinners will return."
Page created in 0.023 seconds with 19 queries.