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Italian army general subject of controversy: Meloni’s party in trouble

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Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing party Fratelli d’Italia (FDI/ECR) is in crisis facing public opinion over the Vannacci case, which involves General Roberto Vannacci, who has been widely criticised for the homophobic, racist and sexist positions he took in his book ‘The World in Reverse’.

Vannacci recently self-published the book that has been the subject of much criticism and has been called homophobic, racist and sexist by many readers and political figures. Among the most disputed statements is the one in which the general defines homosexuals as an anomaly and blames the “international gay lobby” for normalising it.

“The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech. No incitement to hatred from me. I don’t feel like backtracking, I claim what I wrote. I never use vulgar or trivial words: I freely express my thoughts”, the general commented.

Defence Minister and FDI founder Guido Crosetto soon distanced himself and criticised Vannacci’s written words, calling for disciplinary action in the matter and respect for the laws and the Code of Military Order.

Despite Vannacci’s attempts to quell the controversy and tone it down, on 18 August, the Army General Staff decided to remove him from the leadership of the Military Geographical Institute in Florence and place him at the disposal of the Land Operations Forces Command without, at the moment, a leadership role.

“I take the liberty of lamenting what I find really dramatic, and that is that, especially those who call themselves ‘right-wingers’ and fill their mouths with the concepts of homeland, honour, tradition and national pride, show that they do not know, or know very little, what it means to have a sense of the state, institutions, respect for Italian laws and the Republican Constitution”, Crosetto commented.

MP Giovanni Donzelli – a central figure in FDI – defended both Vannacci and the choice made by Crosetto not to displease the right-wing electorate but also not to betray the minister and fellow party members.

“In a free world, you write what you think. If we established that the task of politics is to decide the goodness of ideas, it would be the end of democracy”, Donzelli commented, stressing that, as a military man, Vannacci has rendered “a great service to the nation”.

On the other hand, Donzelli agreed with Crosetto’s decision to initiate disciplinary action, leading to Vannucci’s removal from his former role.

“He did very well (…) Representing a sensitive ministry, he activated a mechanism provided by the army’s procedures. So that it could be verified whether what he did corresponds to military rules or not,” Donzelli added in an interview with Corriere della Sera.

The position of the Fratelli d’Italia members is wavering in the face of a case that forces them to choose between giving in to populism and attacking the left that criticises Vannacci or resisting in their role as a governing party and condemning the General’s positions.

The (far) far-right Forza Nuova (FN) party has proposed Vannacci run in the Monza by-election for the seat vacated after the death of Forza Italia founder Silvio Berlusconi.

(Federica Pascale

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