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Police clash with protesters at far-right Brothers of Italy rally

Clashes broke out on Tuesday between police and protesters at a rally by Italian election frontrunner Giorgia Meloni, a police statement said.

Demonstrators clashing with police at a Brothers of Italy rally in Palermo.
Police clashed with a group of around 50 demonstrators after an officer was reportedly hit. Photo by Igor PETYX / ANSA / AFP

On Tuesday evening, anti-riot officers charged a group of around 50 people who were trying to disrupt a Brothers of Italy party rally in Palermo, Sicily.

Local police said in a statement that “containment” measures were used on a group of demonstrators after an officer was punched by one of the protesters.

READ ALSO: Salvini vs Meloni: Can Italy’s far-right rivals put differences aside?

A demonstrator was taken into custody after throwing a water bottle at a police officer, the statement added. According to the latest media reports, they were released a few hours after the incident.

Italian newspaper La Repubblica said that one of its reporters was hurt during the clash, which was later seen in a video published and widely shared online.

In the aftermath of the incident, the Sicilian parliamentary press association said that journalists from other news outlets were also pushed, adding that they hoped that “these are only incidents and not the restoration of a climate that must belong only to history”.

Earlier on Wednesday, Meloni offered “solidarity” to the journalist hurt during the clash and accused protesters trying to disrupt her election campaign of being “enemies of democracy”.

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

Tuesday’s incident came just two days after the Brothers of Italy leader complained about the lack of public order at her events.

On Monday, Meloni released a video where she accused Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese of failing to ensure that public order was maintained at her rallies.

Clash between demonstrators and police officers at a Brothers of Italy rally in Palermo, Sicily.

A demonstrator who had been taken into custody after hitting a police officer with a water bottle was released a few hours after the incident. Igor PETYX / ANSA / AFP

She said that protesters had already disrupted numerous campaign events and insulted her supporters, warning of “the risk that someone may at some point get wound up and accidents may happen”.

Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party is currently topping opinion polls ahead of Sunday’s vote and looks set to take power with her coalition allies, Matteo Salvini’s far-right League and Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia.

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POLITICS

Italy’s Meloni begins tricky government talks after election win

Italian far-right leader Giorgia Meloni and her allies on Tuesday began what is set to be a weeks-long process of forming a new government, with crises looming on several fronts.

Italy's Meloni begins tricky government talks after election win

Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party, which triumphed in Sunday’s elections, has no experience of power but must assemble a cross-party team to tackle sky-high inflation and energy prices, and relations with a wary Europe.

The 45-year-old is hoping to be the first woman to lead Italy as prime minister, but needs her allies, Matteo Salvini’s far-right League party and former Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, for a majority in parliament.

The division of the top jobs – notably economy, foreign affairs, the defence and interior ministries – will always be political but now, more than ever, “will have to reflect areas of expertise”, the Stampa daily noted.

President Sergio Mattarella will begin consultations on who should lead the new government only once the Senate and Chamber presidents have been elected by parliament, which meets on October 13th.

In the past, it has taken anything between four and 12 weeks for a new administration to take office.

But the first deadline for action is coming up fast, with Italy due to submit its draft plan for next year’s budget to Brussels by October 15th.

READ ALSO: The five biggest challenges facing Italy’s new government

The parties have said they want to make major changes, with a manifesto promising to slash taxes, roll back welfare, and “revise” the terms of Italy’s recovery fund agreement with Brussels – potentially putting the rest of the deal, worth a total of almost 200 billion euros to Italy, at risk.

EU economy commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said he urged “the next Italian government to ensure that this opportunity is seized”, saying the fund was key to putting Italy on a path to “strong and durable growth”.

Agnese Ortolani, senior Europe analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said she expected Meloni “to continue to reassure the markets by picking a non-controversial figure for the role of finance minister”.

“She will also want to avoid reputational damage by nominating someone who is not perceived as credible by the markets,” she said in a note.

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

Meloni’s allies have been pitching for heavyweight positions, Salvini wanting his old job as interior minister back, and Berlusconi eyeing president of the Senate.

Their parties’ disappointing performance in the polls, however, with neither reaching 10 percent while Brothers of Italy’s secured 26 percent, means Meloni may already be planning to sideline them.

League leader Matteo Salvini (L) and Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni are set to form a government together following the election. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

Salvini and Berlusconi do not see eye-to-eye with Meloni on several fronts, including on Russia and public spending to relieve the cost of living crisis.

With all the potential friction ahead, winning the elections “was almost the easy part”, commented Luciano Fontana, chief editor of the Corriere della Sera daily.

Berlusconi downplayed concerns he would rock the boat Tuesday, claiming his party was ready to make compromises “in the country’s interests”.

His ally Antonio Tajani, a former European parliament president, is tipped as possible foreign minister, an appointment which could both appease Berlusconi and assuage international fears that Meloni’s Eurosceptic populist party plans to pick fights with Brussels.

Salvini may prove more difficult. He is currently on trial for allegedly abusing his powers as interior minister in 2019 to block migrants at sea, which some say could rule him out returning to the job.

“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.

“Defusing Salvini” without sparking a backlash that could weaken the government is “Meloni’s first test”, the Repubblica daily said.

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