NEO-FASCIST ROME MAYOR GREETED WITH STRAIGHT ARM SALUTES – PROTESTS IN ROME’S OLD JEWISH GHETTO

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Supporters of Gianni Alemanno wave flags in Rome

Italy’s new parliament met for the first time yesterday with applause for Rome’s mayor-elect, Gianni Alemanno, a day after followers celebrated his triumph with straight-arm salutes and fascist-era chants.

Alemanno, a former neo-fascist youth leader, took 54% of the vote in a run-off on Sunday and Monday, crushing his rival, Francesco Rutelli, a deputy prime minister in the last, centre-left government.

Silvio Berlusconi, who won a general election earlier this month, welcomed the latest evidence of Italy’s leap to the right by declaring: “We are the new Falange.” Although he took care to wrap his remark in a classical context, his choice of words appeared to be a nod and a wink to his most extreme supporters.

The original Falange – the word means “phalanx” – was the Spanish fascist party, founded in the 1930s, which supplied Francisco Franco’s dictatorship with its ideological underpinning.

The prime minister-elect’s closest ally, Umberto Bossi, the Northern League leader, kept up the intimidating rhetoric, arriving for the first session of Italy’s parliament warning of violence if the centre-left did not go along with his plans for federalism.

“I don’t know what the left wants [but] we are ready,” he told reporters.

“If they want conflicts, I have 300,000 men always on hand.”

On Monday night, the area around Rome’s city hall rang to chants of “Duce! Duce!”, the term adopted by Italy’s dictator, Benito Mussolini, equivalent to the German “Führer”. Supporters of the new mayor gave the fascist Roman straight-arm salutes.

Alemanno, however, has promised to be the mayor of all Romans.

He yesterday sent telegrams to both the Pope and the Chief Rabbi.

Rome’s Jewish community was shaken by the prospect of a mayor with Alemanno’s record.

During the campaign, there was a protest aimed at him in the city’s old Jewish ghetto, where many of the city’s Jews still live.

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