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Italy’s lower house of parliament elects far-right, anti-gay speaker

A day after Senate appoints fascist memorabilia-collecting speaker, parliament picks Lorenzo Fontana, who has voiced support for Greece’s Golden Dawn neo-Nazi party

Member of the right-wing Lega (League) party, Lorenzo Fontana reacts after being elected new speaker of the lower house on October 14, 2022 at the parliament building in Rome, following the general elections. (Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)
Member of the right-wing Lega (League) party, Lorenzo Fontana reacts after being elected new speaker of the lower house on October 14, 2022 at the parliament building in Rome, following the general elections. (Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

ROME (AFP) — A far-right committed Eurosceptic known for his anti-abortion, anti-gay views was elected speaker of Italy’s lower house of parliament on Friday.

Former cabinet minister Lorenzo Fontana won the vote in a show of unity by the country’s nascent right-wing government coalition after the squabbling alliance agreed on a temporary truce.

The choice of ultra-Catholic Fontana was slammed by Italy’s largest LGBTQ+ rights group Arcigay, which accused him of supporting “ultra-conservative, homophobic (and) misogynist movements.”

It accused Fontana of having “always used (President Vladimir) Putin’s Russia as a cultural and political model.”

Fontana, who voiced support in 2016 for Greece’s Golden Dawn neo-Nazi party, has railed against the “invasion” by immigrants of Italy.

Members of the center-left Democratic Party (PD) held up a banner in parliament reading: “No to a homophobic and pro-Putin speaker.”

His election followed Thursday’s appointment of Ignazio La Russa, a veteran of Italy’s post-fascist movement known for collecting memorabilia from dictator Benito Mussolini, as speaker of the Senate.

La Russa was the pick of Giorgia Meloni, whose post-fascist Brothers of Italy party won a historic 26 percent of the vote in the country’s September 25 general election.

The new speakers will now take part in discussions with President Sergio Mattarella on the formation of the new government, which is expected to be led by Meloni and should be in place by the end of the month.

Italian far-right party Fratelli d’Italia’s (Brothers of Italy) Ignazio La Russa (L) offers flowers to Italian Senator and Holocaust survivor Liliana Segre (R) after he was elected Senate’s new President, in Rome on October 13, 2022. (Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

‘On its knees’

Meloni said Friday there was “no time to lose,” with the eurozone’s third-largest economy facing myriad challenges, notably soaring inflation and an energy crisis linked to the war in Ukraine.

But she can only form a government with the support of her fractious allies, former premier Silvio Berlusconi, founder of right-wing Forza Italia, and League head Matteo Salvini.

“We want to give the nation the most authoritative government possible,” she said — a reference to the bitter battle to secure key ministerial posts.

Leader of Italian far-right party “Fratelli d’Italia” (Brothers of Italy), Giorgia Meloni attends the election of the new speaker of the lower house on October 14, 2022 at the parliament building in Rome, following the general elections. (Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

Forza Italia boycotted the secret vote in the Senate on Thursday in a bid to put pressure on Meloni — a move that backfired after La Russa picked up the extra votes he needed from the opposition.

Italy’s three opposition parties each denied helping Meloni, saying they had cast blank ballots.

Political commentators in Italy’s main newspapers analyzed video footage from the election in a bid to determine who had been inside the voting booths long enough to write down a name. Some looked to see which way the voters’ feet were pointing as a clue as well.

The drama — in which 86-year-old Berlusconi was seen banging his fist and swearing — revealed the incoming government’s fragility, but also showed Meloni’s strength.

Forza Italia was “on its knees,” the Domani daily said. A “furious and wounded Berlusconi… might be readying for a defeated peace, or for a war that would shake the right.”

Salvini said Friday the power struggle was just a “bump in the road,” insisting the incoming government was ready and would last the course.

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