I’m not a fascist — I like the Tories, says Italy’s far-right leader

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ROME — Giorgia Meloni, the favorite to become Italy’s next prime minister, has rejected claims that a government led by her far-right party could herald a fascist revival, instead likening her tribe to Britain’s ruling Conservatives.

The “Tories” as the U.K.’s governing party is also known, have themselves been criticized for pursuing radical right-wing policies, after leading the country out of the European Union, planning to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, and waging a populist campaign against the conventions of parliament and the judiciary.

Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party is polling around 24 percent, putting her on course to lead a right-wing coalition government after the election on September 25.

The party has drawn criticism for its origins in the Italian Social Movement (MSI), which was founded by former fascists after WWII, and its hard-line anti-immigration policies. The party’s symbol still contains the flame of the MSI and Mussolini’s descendants have stood as candidates.

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On Wednesday, Meloni decided to tackle the comparison with fascism head on. International suggestions that a government led by her “is a danger to democracy and European and international stability” were unjustified, she said in a video message in French, Spanish and English.

“For years, I have also had the honor of leading the European Conservative Party,” she said, adding that this grouping in the European Parliament “shares values and experiences with the British Tories, the U.S. Republicans and the Israeli Likud.”

The Brothers of Italy “unambiguously condemn Nazism and communism” and “fiercely oppose any anti-democratic drift,” Meloni added. The right consigned fascism to history decades ago, she claimed, “unambiguously condemning the suppression of democracy and ignominious anti-Jewish laws.”

It’s not the first time Meloni has tried to distance herself from her party’s historic roots. She has previously said in interviews that there was no place for fascist nostalgia in her party. In her autobiography, she wrote that she “does not belong to the cult of fascism.” But this is the furthest she has gone to distance the party from fascism in an official statement. 

Meloni’s ally in the right wing coalition, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi expressed support for her on Wedneday as he indicated he planned to return to the Senate, after he was barred from holding office after receiving a four-year sentence for tax fraud. But in 2018 a court lifted the ban, allowing the octogenarian media tycoon to run again for office. He has been an MEP since 2019.

“I think I’ll run for the Senate, so we’ll make everyone happy, after receiving pressure from so many, even outside Forza Italia,” he said on Rai Radio 1 station.

Berlusconi confirmed that he will back Meloni as prime minister, if the right-wing coalition win and her party receives more votes than her allies. “We have always said that whoever has the most votes will be proposed to the head of state as the candidate-premier. If it is Giorgia Meloni I am sure that she will prove adequate for the difficult task.”