ROME (Nov. 23)
As a result of Sunday’s local elections in Italy, the country’s neo-fascists are now Italy’s most popular party.
In an interesting twist, the party that came in a close second is that of the former Communists.
The elections, involving hundreds of communities and 11 million voters, were a watershed event that saw the collapse of the centrist parties that had long ruled Italy and have been heavily discredited in a 21-month-long corruption scandal.
Voters turned their backs with a vengeance on the longtime ruling parties, the Christian Democrats and the Socialists.
Instead they voted for the extremes: for the former Communists and other leftist parties, and for the far right, primarily the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement, known here as the MSI.
One of the most newsy electoral races was that for mayor of Naples, where the late dictator Benito Mussolini’s flamboyant 31-year-old granddaughter, Alessandra Mussolini, gathered enough votes to participate in a runoff election.
In the Dec. 5 runoff, Alessandra Mussolini, who is also a niece of the actress Sophia Loren, will be pitted against leftist candidate Antonio Bassolino. In Sunday’s vote, Mussolini received 29.7 percent of the vote while Bassolino received 48.5 percent.
In the Rome mayoral race, MSI national leader Gianfranco Fini also won enough votes to be in a runoff election.
He was locked in an unexpectedly neck-and-neck race for mayor of the Eternal City against Francesco Rutelli, who is supported by a coalition of leftist parties.
The scope of neo-fascist success in the elections was much greater than anticipated and has stunned many observers.
For most of its history, the MSI has been relegated to the political fringe, catering to fascist nostalgia and barred from any active role in government.
It has links with far-right parties in other countries, such as France’s National Front. Skinheads routinely attend MSI rallies, giving the fascist salute.
“Italy has shown once again that a democratic turn toward the right is sweeping Europe,” German right-wing leader Franz Schonhuber told MSI supporters in a congratulatory message.
Some analysts said the 50 years between Italy today and Benito Mussolini’s defeat also played a role in the MSI success.
“More than an attraction, this is the end of a repulsion,” sociologist Domenico De Masi told the newspaper II Messaggero.
“Anyone 20 years old is too far away from the fascist era. Indeed, even his 40-year-old parents have only heard stories about those days. And in two generations, the past is canceled out,” he said.