Tuesday

23rd Jan 2018

Italian right-wing merger to shake up EU parliament politics

  • Mr Berlusconi says goodbye to Forza Italia and hello to a new bloc with the post-fascist Alleanza Nazionale (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

The populist right-wing party of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Friday officially merges with the post-fascist Alleanza Nazionale at the founding congress of Il Popolo della Liberta, the powerful new rightist bloc that is not only set to dominate Italian politics for the foreseeable future, but will also wield considerable power in the European Parliament after the June elections.

A three-day, €3 million extravaganza, with jumbotron screens and menus is to celebrate the fusing of the two parties, a long-expected move that brings Mr Berlusconi one step closer to his dream of a unified Italian right.

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The Italian leader will become the head of Il Popolo della Liberta (People of Freedom), although his ambitious rival and chief of the now disbanded Alleanza, Gianfranco Fini has indicated he has his sights on the leadership should Mr Berlusconi exit the stage.

"Berlusconi knows that his strong and recognised leadership can in no way become a personality cult," Mr Fini, also the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, the Italian parliament's lower house, told the final conference of his own party.

"We must guarantee that the People of Freedom is not the party of one person, but of one country."

The move cements the coalition between two of the three major forces on the Italian right. Forza Italia and the Alleanza Nazionale have partnered since the 1990s and in last year's general election ran together under the Il Popolo della Liberta banner, prefiguring today's fusion.

The Alleanza Nazionale was formed by Mr Fini out of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), the former neo-fascist party, together with a handful of conservative ex-Christian Democrats and Liberals.

Despite once having called Italy's fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, the greatest statesman of the 20th century, Mr Fini has since tried to distance himself from his far right past, making numerous trips to Israel and even criticising elements of the recent hardline security package that targets immigrants and minorities.

Mr Berlusconi's dream is not fully realised, however, as the xenophobic Northern League remains steadfastly outside the bloc.

Italian president of the European Parliament?

The Italian leader has already set the cat amongst the pigeons in the European Parliament's centre-right grouping, the European People's Party-European Democrats (EPP-ED), in which Il Popolo della Liberta is set to be the largest party after June.

The largest national delegation in the grouping, Germany's Christian Democrats and their Bavarian cousins, the Christian Social Union, are expected to shrink following the EP elections and the UK Conservatives have announced they are to exit the group. Meanwhile, the entry of the Alleanza Nazionale into the EPP under umbrella of Il Popolo della Liberta significantly beefs up the Italian delegation in the centre-right grouping.

Mr Berlusconi's bloc is testing its predicted new bulk, having this week sent a letter to other EPP national delegations announcing that he will be supporting MEP Mario Mauro for the presidency of the chamber.

The move threatens to scuttle the gentleman's agreement between the EPP and the Party of European Socialists (PES), the second largest political family in the house, that Polish centre-right MEP Jerzy Buzek would be president for the first two and a half years of the five-year presidential term, and Martin Schulz, the German Social Democrat leader of the PES would be president for the remaining half term.

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