ROME (Dec. 6)
The Jewish community here was visibly relieved as candidates supported by Italy’s former Communist Party routed the neo-fascists in most municipal elections throughout the country.
“Grazie, Francesco,” said a banner hanging from a window in Rome’s Jewish quarter, referring to the mayoral victory of Francesco Rutelli, the candidate of the Democratic Party of the Left (PDS) — the former Communist Party.
Rutelli defeated neo-fascist candidate Gianfranco Fini in the runoff vote, 53.1 percent to 46.9 percent.
A leftist candidate also won in the Adriatic city of Trieste.
Tullia Zevi, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, expressed relief and called the rout of the neo-fascists “significant for all Europe.”
She said the victory of what she described as the “center-left” had brought “satisfaction and relief.”
“Any center-left coalition is better than the right,” said Zevi.
The right, she said, is tainted and “reminiscent of fascism.”
But she emphasized that the relief was tempered by the fact that the neo-fascists still had a strong showing.
A member of the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI) was elected mayor of the Adriatic seaport of Chieti.
In Rome, Naples and elsewhere, MSI members will form the core of the opposition.
There are about 15,000 Jews among the estimated 3 million Catholics in Rome.
JEWS ASKED VOTERS TO REJECT NEO-FASCISTS
Sunday’s runoff elections, for the mayors of 129 cities and towns, marked the first time since World War II that the Italian Jewish community had came out formally on behalf of particular candidates.
Jewish organizations threw their whole effort into rallies and appeals to voters to reject the neo-fascist candidates.
“The Union of Italian Jewish Communities expresses hope and faith that Italians, because of their diverse religious faiths and political positions, know well how to defend democracy and the Italian republic,” said Zevi in a statement.
The first round of voting two weeks ago resulted in wins by neo-fascists and left-wing candidates.
Italians were registering their disgust with incumbent officials who have been charged with bribes and scandal over the past two years.
Sunday’s leftist win was an 11th-hour rout of the neo-fascist MSI, which was founded in 1945 by sympathizers of the slain Benito Mussolini, the wartime fascist dictator.
In Naples, Alessandra Mussolini, II Duce’s 30-year-old granddaughter, lost the mayoral election to leftist candidate Antonio Bassolino by more than 9 percent of the vote.
The municipal elections confirmed the collapse of the traditional center parties, particularly the Christian Democrats and Socialists.
These parties have ruled Italy for the past 45 years but were discredited by the country’s corruption scandal.