Far-right Brothers of Italy party suspends candidate for praising Hitler

Just a few days before general elections, Italy's biggest party confirmed on Tuesday it had suspended a candidate over Facebook posts praising Hitler.

Far-right Brothers of Italy party suspends candidate for praising Hitler
Supporters of Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party hold banners featuring the tricolour flame. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

A candidate for the far-right Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia, FdI), which is tipped to come out on top in the September 25th elections, has been suspended for praising Hitler, the party said on Tuesday.

FdI leader Georgia Meloni, who could lead Italy’s first far-right government after Sunday’s vote, has sought to distance herself from her party’s post-fascist roots without renouncing them entirely.

READ ALSO: Italy’s far right set for easy victory under Giorgia Meloni

Calogero Pisano, the head of FdI in Agrigento, Sicily and a member of the party’s national leadership, has been “suspended with immediate effect”, the FdI said in a statement.

“[He] no longer represents the party at any level and is forbidden from using its logo,” the statement added. Pisano is expected to appear before the party’s leadership in the coming days.

Brothers of Italy's campaign poster.

Giorgia Meloni has sought to distance her Brothers of Italy party from its post-fascist history. Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

In 2014, Pisano had posted a photo of Meloni featuring the slogan “Italy Above All” on Facebook.

He had then commented underneath, “This reminds me of a great statesman from 70 years ago”, adding that he was not referring to Italy’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini but to a “German”.

Pisano has reportedly published other comments supporting fascism since then.

READ ALSO: ‘Tired of the controversy’: Why Italy’s ‘Hitler wines’ are being discontinued

Peppe Provenzano, the deputy leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, was the first politician to react after the Facebook post was brought to light by Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

“Deep roots never freeze,” he tweeted, noting that Brothers of Italy’s logo still uses the tricolour flame once used by the Italian Social Movement (Movimento Sociale Italiano, MSI), which was formed by Mussolini supporters after World War II.

Ruth Dureghello, the head of Rome’s Jewish community, said it was “unacceptable for someone who praises Hitler to sit in parliament”.

READ ALSO: How would victory for Italy’s far right impact foreigners’ lives?

Meloni, who was an activist with the MSI as a teenager, has so far maintained that there is no place for fascist nostalgia in her party.

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Doubts rise over ‘loose cannon’ Salvini after Italy’s election

Italian anti-immigrant leader Matteo Salvini was disappointed on Monday at his party's result in general elections but pledged to work with Giorgia Meloni, who triumphed, to form a government.

Doubts rise over 'loose cannon' Salvini after Italy's election

Whether Salvini would keep his word – or survive politically long enough to do so – was not clear, after his anti-immigrant League party dropped below the 10 percent threshold at Sunday’s vote.

This was a sharp decrease after the party swept to office with 17 percent of the vote in 2018 – since when it has been eclipsed by Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy.

EXPLAINED: What will a far-right government mean for Italy?

A glum Salvini, who has clashed with Meloni on a range of policies, not least her stance on Russia and the war in Ukraine, told reporters that winning just nine percent had been a blow.

It was “not a number I wanted or worked for”, he said.

Salvini added that he had “gone to bed fairly pissed off but woke up ready to go” and was now “looking on the bright side”.

Meloni “was good. We will work together for a long time”, he promised.

Leader of Italy's liberal-conservative party Forza Italia, Silvio Berlusconi, leader of Italy's conservative party Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni and leader of Italy's far-right League party, Matteo Salvini acknowledge supporters at the end of a joint rally against the government on October 19, 2019 in Rome.

Italy’s right-wing coalition, consisting of Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, Salvini’s League and Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, has promised to slash taxes and put ‘Italians first’. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

The League may now have to battle to ensure its priorities are not sidelined in Meloni’s government programme, analysts said.

And while ex-interior minister Salvini has repeatedly said he wants his former job back, it is looking increasingly unlikely to happen.

“It won’t be an easy relationship. It’s likely that (Salvini) will be given a more marginal role in the government than he wants,” Sofia Ventura, political sciences professor at Bologna University, told the foreign press association in Rome.

“The result… throws into question Matteo Salvini’s leadership” of his own party, she said, adding that there were those within the League who thought they would be better off without the “loose cannon”.

READ ALSO: Meloni, Salvini, Berlusconi: The key figures in Italy’s likely new government

He said Meloni had benefited from being the only leader to stay outside the coalition formed by Prime Minister Mario Draghi in February 2021.

For the League, being part of that administration “was not easy”, he said, but insisted “I would do it again.”

‘Dangerous when cornered’

Meloni secured around 26 percent of the vote in Sunday’s poll, putting her on course to become the first woman to serve as Italian prime minister.

She campaigned as part of a coalition including Salvini’s League and ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, which won around eight percent.

Italian politics is notoriously unstable, with nearly 70 governments since 1946, and there were concerns disagreements with Salvini may precipitate a fresh crisis.

Lorenzo Pregliasco, co-founder of the YouTrend polling site, said Italian party leaders proved “dangerous” when they felt cornered.

The League head “might not create any problems in the short term” but “watch out for the Salvini factor, if he survives politically as a leader”.

Salvini however said that after years of unwieldy coalitions, Italy finally had “a government chosen by its citizens, with a clear majority” in both houses of parliament.

And he hoped it could “go for at least five years straight, without changes, without upheavals, focusing on things to do”.