Fear in Rome over new ‘Fas­cist’ mayor

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY RUTH ELLEN GRUBER ROME

THE ELEC­TION of Rome’s new mayor has brought the right wing to power in Italy’s cap­i­tal for the first time since the Sec­ond World War.

Run­ning on a law-and-or­der plat­form, Gianni Ale­manno, 50, de­feated cen­tre-left can­di­date Francesco Rutelli by more than 100,000 votes in a tense run-off two weeks af­ter cen­treright leader Sil­vio Ber­lus­coni swept to power in na­tional elec­tions.

On the eve of the run-off, a group of 80 left­ist Jewish in­tel­lec­tu­als had pub­lished an ap­peal in the left-wing daily l’Unita call­ing on vot­ers to re­ject Mr Ale­manno, who be­gan his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer in the youth wing of the Ital­ian So­cial Move­ment, a neo-Fas­cist party es­tab­lished af­ter the war by die-hard fol­low­ers of Ben­ito Mus­solini.

“One doesn’t de­fend democ­racy by re­ward­ing an­tisemitism and the moral heirs of Nazi-Fas­cism,” it said.

Mr Ale­manno is a mem­ber of the right-wing Na­tional Al­liance party, a key com­po­nent of Ber­lus­coni’s Peo­ple of Free­dom coali­tion. He served as Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter in a pre­vi­ous Ber­lus­coni ad­min­is­tra­tion.

He pledged to be “ev­ery­one’s mayor” and one of his first moves was to send a good­will tele­gram to Rome’s Chief Rabbi Ric­cardo Di Segni, of­fer­ing “def­er­en­tial greet­ings” and as­sur­ing “full col­lab­o­ra­tion for the good of all Ro­man cit­i­zens”.

Both Mr Ale­manno and Mr Rutelli had courted Jewish votes. About 15,000 Jews live in the cap­i­tal, form­ing the big­gest Jewish com­mu­nity in Italy.

Many Ital­ian Jews backed Mr Ber­lus­coni, who is a strong sup­porter of Is­rael, and prom­i­nent Jews were elected to par­lia­ment on the Peo­ple of Free­dom ticket. They in­cluded the jour­nal­ist Fi­amma Niren­stein, an out­spo­ken sup­porter of Is­rael who has lived in Jerusalem for the past decade.

But some Rome Jewish lead­ers had called for Jews to re­ject Mr Ale­manno be­cause of his neo-Fas­cist past and the open sup­port he en­joyed from ex­treme right par­ties and fac­tions, in­clud­ing the far-right La Des­tra [The Right] party. Af­ter his vic­tory, some Ale­manno sup­port­ers cel­e­brated by giv­ing the stiff-armed Fas­cist salute.

Rome com­mu­nity pres­i­dent Ric­cardo Paci­fici had traded barbs with La Des­tra leader Francesco Storace ahead of the run-off. Mr Paci­fici had threat­ened a Jewish protest if Mr Ale­manno of­fi­cially al­lied him­self with La Des­tra.

Mr Ale­manno re­jected a for­mal al­liance. But Mr Storace pub­licly an­nounced his back­ing and, at a news con­fer­ence, de­manded an apol­ogy from Mr Paci­fici for what he termed its “shame­ful cam­paign” against La Des­tra.

Com­men­ta­tors said that Mr Ale­manno’s vic­tory con­firmed the coun­try’s con­ser­va­tive shift.

PHOTO: AP

Gianni Ale­manno waves to sup­port­ers at his elec­toral head­quar­ters

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