Italian politician resigns over racist chant

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The Independent Online

An Italian lawmaker in Premier Silvio Berlusconi's coalition has resigned after being filmed singing a racist chant about Naples and its residents.

Matteo Salvini, a member of the often xenophobic, anti-immigrant Northern League party, resigned his seat in the lower chamber of Parliament yesterday. He denied the decision was connected to the scandal.

In the video published by left-leaning daily La Repubblica, Salvini is shown at a party gathering in June leading a profanity-filled chant often sung by northern fans at soccer stadiums to denigrate rivals from Naples and other southern towns.

The Northern League once advocated independence for Italy's prosperous northern regions from the less developed south. The party has since abandoned that demand, hostility toward southerners still runs deep among its members.

The video sparked calls for Salvini's resignation and an official apology from the opposition and even some politicians in Berlusconi's coalition. In interviews with Italian media on Wednesday, Salvini said he had stepped down because he was elected to the European Parliament and had opted for a seat in that assembly.

He told the SkyTG24 news channel the chant "is something that has been going around Italy's stadiums for 40 years ... it has nothing to do with politics."

Salvini's resignation doesn't endanger Berlusconi's conservative coalition, which has a comfortable majority in Parliament, but it is a new embarrassment for the premier as he chairs the Group of Eight meeting that started Wednesday in L'Aquila.

Berlusconi has already been fending off a scandal over his purported relationships with young women. The premier has denied all the allegations, calling them a smear campaign by the left.

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