Renzi calls meeting over ‘orangutan’ slur

Renzi calls meeting over 'orangutan' slur
Matteo Renzi is the leader of Italy's Democratic Party (PD). Photo: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP
Italy's prime minister, Matteo Renzi, has called a meeting of senators after they voted against bringing racism charges against a politician who likened the country's first black minister to an "orangutan".

The world reacted with outrage in 2013 when Roberto Calderoli, a member of the far-right Northern League party, made the slur against Cecile Kyenge, at the time serving as integration minister in Enrico Letta’s cabinet.

“When I see Kyenge I can’t help but think of an orangutan,” Calderoli told supporters at a rally in Treviglio. He subsequently refused Letta’s calls to resign and held onto his senate seat.

Fellow senators – including members of Kyenge’s Democratic Party (PD) – last week voted against Calderoli facing racism charges.

Renzi did not directly condemn the outcome, but said his PD senators would discuss what had happened. “There will be a meeting of the group at the Senate after the Calderoli-Kyenge vote,” he said, quoted in L'Unità.

Minutes before the prime minister spoke at the PD meeting on Monday, Kyenge expressed her “bitterness” over the vote. By “pardoning” Calderoli of racism charges, she said the PD demonstrated “serious incoherence.”

Now an MEP, Kyenge said last week she will take the case to the European Court of Justice.

Cecile Kyenge by Alberto Pizzoli/AFP