Letter: Italian mayoral elections make fascism respectable again

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The Independent Online
PATRICIA CLOUGH rightly says the new mayor inherits a Rome that is a mess: that pollution, bureaucracy and immigration have caused many to flee the city ('Eternal City puts faith in Green man', 12 December). Patricia Clough presumably lives there, so why does she talk only to those who flee? 'Society figure Princess Doris Pignatelli', tired of trudging fruitlessly from office to office, has retired to the hills near Venice. 'Journalist Miriam Mafai', exasperated by the traffic and garbage, has joined the colony of similarly sensitive and mobile Romans in Paris.

I suspect that Paris has its own traffic, garbage, bureaucracy and immigration problems - it's just that the princess and journalist do not feel responsible for them. Such complaints would have rung more true had they come from people who still have a stake in the future of the city and think it matters who is mayor.

Your article alludes to the Eternal City, but treats the issues as purely local. What was obvious to anyone in Rome - or Naples, Palermo, Genoa, Venice, or Cosenza - during the last month was that these elections were deeply political and national. They have proclaimed the collapse of the 'centre' parties who have ruled Italy obstinately since 1948, and they have brought the country near to a return to fascism. The extreme right-wing Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI) is now the largest single party in both Rome and Naples. In the first round of the elections, 36 per cent of Romans voted for the national leader of that party, Gianfranco Fini, in the second round 47 per cent. Fini, alarmingly, has been endorsed by the television magnate Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's equivalent of Rupert Murdoch and Robert Maxwell combined. Though Mr Fini and Alessandra Mussolini have been defeated, fascism has now once more earned respectability; attacks on prostitutes and homosexuals, on blacks, Jews and gypsies will multiply.

Meanwhile, these municipal ballots are only a prelude to parliamentary elections which will see a left alliance pitted against the fascists in the south, against the separatist leagues and Berlusconi's 'Forza Italia' clubs in the north. How Francesco Rutelli, Rome's new mayor, and the other progressive mayors perform over the next three months will go a long way towards deciding whether Italy will remain united and democratic.

Patricia Clough does not mention the dangers of the MSI. It is doubly unfortunate, then, that the photograph captioned 'Mayor Francesco Rutelli' is in fact of MSI's candidate, Mr Fini.

J Francis

Rome

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