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WORLD | 09-04-2019 15:46

Mussolini's Argentine-born great-grandson to run in EU elections

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's great-grandson, who was born in Argentina, plans to run in next month's European parliamentary elections on behalf of a minor far-right party.

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's great-grandson, who was born in Argentina, plans to run in next month's European parliamentary elections on behalf of a minor far-right party, reports suggested on Tuesday.

He would become the third descendant of Benito Mussolini to enter Italy's political arena.

Italy's Il Messaggero newspaper said Caio Giulio Cesare Mussolini, a 50-year-old former submariner, is planning to run as a candidate for the Fratelli d'Italia ("Brothers of Italy") party.

"So many people want to put Mussolini on the ballot," it quoted him as saying.

Mussolini is the first cousin once removed of Alessandra Mussolini, the dead fascist leader's granddaughter who has been an MEP since 2014. Rachele Mussolini, a Rome city council member also associated with Brothers of Italy, is also in Italian politics.

Caio Mussolini has no previous political experience but "obviously I've breathed politics my whole life," he told the daily. On his Facebook profile, he says he was "born in Argentina in 1968" and "childhood and adolescence between Italy and Venezuela."

He described himself to Il Fatto Quotidiano as "a post-fascist who refers to those values in a non-ideological way."

He said he thought he was chosen as a candidate not for his family name but for his first names, the Italian form of "Gaius Julius Caesar," as well as his sense of duty and international experience.

If elected, he said he would "defend the national interest with all my actions and votes", in line with the nationalist stance of Fratelli d'Italia. The party won 4.4 percent of votes in last year's Italian national election.

Announcement

Party leader Giorgia Meloni announced Mussolini's candidacy over the weekend. 

Mussolini, 51, was a naval officer for 15 years, then an executive in Italy's largest defence contractor Finmeccanica before turning to politics.

"He is a professional, a serviceman, a patriot," Meloni said against the backdrop of the multi-arched facade of the Palace of Italian Civilisation that was built by Benito Mussolini and known to modern-day Romans as the "Squared Colosseum."

Standing beside Meloni, Caio Mussolini, who is running in southern Italy, called it an honour to run for Brothers of Italy, which he described as "patriotic, like I am."

In an interview with the right-wing paper Libero, Caio Mussolini conceded that his name is not an easy one to carry, but that he will "never be ashamed of my family."

Asked if he would define himself as a fascist, he responded: "Fascism died with Benito Mussolini."

He added that he was born well after that period and that fascism was now something for "historians to study." Anyone worried about its revival, he said, "is seeing imaginary enemies."

"I see other dangers. The thought police, globalism, the dictatorship of political correctness, uncontrolled immigration a few small financial groups that control everything, Islamic extremism," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Family name

Still, Caio Mussolini said he recognised the strength of the family name, making #scrivimussolini, or #writeinmussolini, a campaign motto, because, he said on Twitter, "Many want to write Mussolini on the ballot."

Indeed, the strength of Mussolini's rhetoric, drawing heavily on the old glory of the Roman empire, still has not lost political currency.

Opinion writer Michele Serra wrote in La Repubblica that "if the great-grandson of il Duce wasn't named Caio Giulio Cesare, but Beppe, he would not be a candidate with Brothers of Italy, but with some boring party in the centre."

Benito Mussolini was Italy's dictator for two decades until his summary execution in 1945.

Mussolini plunged Italy into World War II, allying himself with Nazi Germany's leader Adolf Hitler, and signing racial laws that led to the deportation and murders of thousands of Italian Jews.

That modern-day politicians stir controversies when they praise any Mussolini accomplishment, particularly infrastructure, underlines the dictator's fraught legacy.

Neo-fascist parties remained part of Italy's post-war political landscape, even though supporting or promoting fascism became a crime.

- TIMES/AFP/AP

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