The Brothers of Italy party, which looks set to win the country’s general elections on 25 September, has suspended one of its candidates on Tuesday after he was found to have praised Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler in online posts.
Brothers of Italy traces its roots back to a neo-fascist group set up after World War II - the Italian Social Movement, MSI - but its leader Giorgia Meloni, expected to be Italy's next prime minister, has looked to distance herself from the far-right and says her party is a moderate conservative force.
Meloni herself can be seen in an interview with French television from 1996 describing Mussolini as a “good politician”.
Critics, however, accuse the party of harbouring neo-fascists among its ranks - indeed, two of Mussolini’s descendants are among its members - and La Repubblica newspaper recently published a social media comment posted eight years ago by party candidate Calogero Pisano, hailing Hitler as a "great statesman".
Pisano, who was standing for election in Sicily, in 2016 praised someone for defining Meloni as a "modern fascist", claiming that Brothers of Italy had "never hidden its true ideals".
The emergence of the posts drew anger from Italian Jews. "The idea that those who praise Hitler can sit in the next parliament is unacceptable," Ruth Dureghello, head of Rome’s Jewish community, tweeted.
"There can be no room for those who legitimise hatred," she said.
Responding to the controversy, Brothers of Italy said it was suspending Pisano with immediate effect. "From this moment on, Pisano no longer represents (the party) at any level," it declared in a statement.
Pisano himself apologised, stating on Facebook that “years ago, I wrote things that were profoundly wrong” and noting that the posts had since been removed.
Brothers of Italy is widely expected to emerge as Italy's largest single party at the polls this Sunday and lead a coalition of right-wing parties to a majority in both houses of parliament.