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Fury as Berlusconi says Rome mayor job ‘is not for mums’

Italy's gaffe-prone former premier Silvio Berlusconi has done it again - this time suggesting that being Rome Mayor is no job for a mother.

Fury as Berlusconi says Rome mayor job 'is not for mums'
Berlusconi said being mayor of Rome is no job for a mother. Photo: Wenjie Zhang/Andreas Solaro/Gianni Schicci/AFP

The comments came amid a spat between his Forza Italia party and the Northern League over who the two parties will endorse as the candidate to lead a centre-right coalition in the upcoming mayoral elections.

“It's clear to everybody that a mother can't do that job,” Berlusconi told Radio Anch'io on Monday, referring to the Northern League's favoured candidate, 39-year-old Giorgia Meloni, who recently announced she was pregnant.

His comments were met with a wave of criticism and prompted fierce debate on the subject of sexism in politics.

“When will they ask a male candidate to withdraw for not being telegenic enough, or because he needs to be a father?” asked Italy's Constitutional Reform Minister, Maria Elena Boschi.

Berlusconi's party is instead endorsing 56-year old Guido Bertolaso, currently head of Italy's Civil Protection unit.

Supporting his endorser's comments, Bertolaso also told LA7 TV on Monday that Meloni should “focus on being a mum” instead of running for mayor.

Meloni served as Youth Minister as part of Berlusconi's fourth government, and at the time was the youngest MP in Italy's history.

She now leads the nationalistic Brothers of Italy party.

Both Berlusconi and Bertolaso object to Meloni, not because they doubt her political prowess, but because she is pregnant.

“The city is in a terrible state,” Berlusconi said, referencing the mountainous problems that the next incumbent will have to deal with.

“Being mayor of Rome means spending 14 hours a day between travelling around the city and your office.”

The 79-year-old then went on to attack the Northern League for trying to force Meloni into the mayoral race.

“There are people who, due to political selfishness, are pushing her to do this at her own detriment,” he added.

But Meloni was quick to defend herself.

“I hope to be an excellent mother,” she was reported as saying in La Repubblica. “Like all the other women, who between a thousand challenges, manage to combine work and motherhood.”

As the storm blew up, Bertolaso spoke to Radio Anch'io to downplay his comments, saying he had made them “as a joke.”

“It's all a storm in a teacup. A mother would make an excellent mayor of Rome, but at the moment she [Meloni] is pregnant and needs to be protected and not stressed from morning to night.

“No one can accuse me of sexism – my record as a politician backs it up.”

Other political groups have already announced their nominees, and without a candidate the centre-right is losing ground in its campaign.

In February, the centre-left Democratic Party said 55-year-old former journalist Roberto Giachetti would stand as its candidate, while 38-year-old lawyer Virginia Raggi was put forward by the populist Five Star Movement.

An official date for the elections has not yet been set, but vote has been mooted for Sunday June 12th.
 

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POLITICS

Italian rivals pitch abroad in trilingual vote videos

Days after Italy's far-right leader made a multilingual appeal to foreign commentators to take her seriously, her main rival in September elections issued his own tit-for-tat video Saturday condemning her record.

Italian rivals pitch abroad in trilingual vote videos

Former prime minister Enrico Letta, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, declared his pro-European credentials in a video in English, French and Spanish, while deriding the euroscepticism of Italy’s right-wing parties.

It echoes the trilingual video published this week by Giorgia Meloni, tipped to take power in the eurozone’s third largest economy next month, in which she sought to distance her Brothers of Italy party from its post-fascist roots.

“We will keep fighting to convince Italians to vote for us and not for them, to vote for an Italy that will be in the heart of Europe,” Letta said in English.

His party and Meloni’s are neck-and-neck in opinion polls ahead of September 25 elections, both with around 23 percent of support.

But Italy’s political system favours coalitions, and while Meloni is part of an alliance with ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and anti-immigration leader Matteo Salvini, Letta has struggled to unite a fractured centre-left.

Speaking in French perfected in six years as a dean at Sciences Po university in Paris, Letta emphasised European solidarity, from which Italy is currently benefiting to the tune of almost 200 billion euros ($205 billion) in
post-pandemic recovery funds.

“We need a strong Europe, we need a Europe of health, a Europe of solidarity. And we can only do that if there is no nationalism inside European countries,” he said.

He condemned the veto that he said right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor “Orban — friends and allies of the Italian right — is using every time he can (to) harm Europe”.

In Spanish, Letta highlighted Meloni’s ties with Spain’s far-right party Vox, at whose rally she spoke earlier this summer, railing at the top of her voice against “LGBT lobbies”, Islamist violence, EU bureaucracy and mass
immigration.

In English, he condemned the economic legacy of Berlusconi, a three-time premier who left office in 2011 as Italy was on the brink of economic meltdown, but still leads his Forza Italia party.

Letta’s programme includes a focus on green issues — he intends to tour Italy in an electric-powered bus — and young people, but he has made beating Meloni a key plank of his campaign.

Meloni insisted in her video that fascism was in the past, a claim greeted with scepticism given her party still uses the logo of a flame used by the Italian Social Movement set up by supporters of fascist leader Benito Mussolini.

In a joint manifesto published this week, Meloni, Berlusconi and Salvini committed themselves to the EU but called for changes to its budgetary rules — and raised the prospect of renegotiating the pandemic recovery plan.

Elections were triggered by the collapse of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government last month, and are occurring against a backdrop of soaring inflation, a potential winter energy crisis and global uncertainty sparked by
the Ukraine war.

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