Salvini criticised after snubbing annual celebration of Italy's ovethrow of fascism

Giada Zampano
Matteo Salvini inaugurates a police headquarters in 'The Godfather' home town of Corleone on Thursday April 25 - REUTERS

Far-Right interior minister Matteo Salvini has been criticised for failing to attend the annual celebration of Italy's overthrow of fascism. 

Mr Salvini, who leads the anti-immigration League party, on Thursday became the first top-level politician to skip the Liberation Day ceremony that marks the triumph of Italy’s resistance against the Nazi occupation.

Last year the League’s leader appeared to cast himself as the inheritor of Benito Mussolini’s legacy, tweeting ‘tanti nemici, tanti onore’ (so many enemies, so much honour) on the former dictator's birthday after criticism of his xenophobic speeches. Il Duce coined the phrase, ‘molti nemici, molti onore’.

Mr Salvini, 46, chose instead to visit the Sicilian city of Corleone, where he paid tribute to the anti-mafia police.

“I won't be marching here or there, wearing red handkerchiefs …” Mr Salvini said, in a reference to the Communist party’s presence at Liberation Day. “I'm going to Corleone to support the police force in the heart of Sicily".

Mr Salvini’s unprecedented decision further strained the uneasy alliance between the League and anti-establishment Five Star Movement, who together form the coalition government.

Five Star leader and deputy premier Luigi Di Maio slammed his rival party chief in a visit to a synagogue on Thursday.

“April 25 is a big national holiday that we all have to celebrate,” |Mr Di Maio said.

On Thursday, President Sergio Mattarella appealed against the re-writing of history on his usual visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Rome. He reminded all parties that the liberation from Nazi-Fascism was “Italy’s second Renaissance” and a founding moment of the Italian Republic.  

A columnist for centre-left newspaper La Repubblica, Ezio Mauro, wrote that Mr Salvini had “disqualified himself as a politician” by pitting the fight against fascism against that versus the mafia - “as if this were a contest rather than a double challenge.”

The celebrations on Thursday were also marred by 60 Lazio fans hanging a banner that read “Honour to Benito Mussolini” before a Wednesday night match against AC Milan.

The group sang fascist songs and performed the Nazi-Fascist salute near the city’s central Piazza Loreto, the place where the defeated dictator’s body was hung up in 1945.

Mr Salvini condemned the incident as the work of a “few idiots” but that was not enough to assuage critics who argue he is complacent towards extreme-right groups.

In Italy, fascist apologism is a crime but cases have been thrown out in recent years on grounds of freedom of speech.