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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Rise and Rise of Italy's Fascists

ROME -- Italy's neo-fascists, exploiting a political revolution, are set to enter government for the first time since the days of dictator Benito Mussolini, following the success of a rightist bloc in this week's elections.

The National Alliance, part of media magnate Silvio Berlusconi's Freedom Alliance, which won a landslide victory in Tuesday's poll, appears set to become the country's third-biggest political party, scoring major electoral breakthroughs in their strongest bases in Rome, Naples and elsewhere.

But despite this seemingly meteoric rise, analysts say neo-fascism has long been a force in Italian post-war politics and could well rise further.

"It would be a mistake to think that this right wing came from nowhere," said Patrick McCarthy, professor of European studies at Johns Hopkins University in Bologna.

The neo-fascist National Alliance, and its leader Gianfranco Fini, 42, are heirs of a movement which was reestablished after World War II in 1947.

Ever since, it has remained a potent force in the south where there is a long rightist tradition. Treated as a pariah by other groups, the neo-fascists habitually spat out a message of contempt for conventional politicians.

They accused the ruling parties of corruption long before the Tangentopoli scandal broke.

The corruption revelation ironically broke the back of the Christian Democrats and drove many voters into the neo-fascist camp.

The trend was helped by the rise of Fini. He had long campaigned against the more extreme elements in the party and had tried to give the neo-fascists a more acceptable image.

Fini won his reward in municipal elections last year, when the party leaped to new prominence, with the leader himself narrowly missing becoming mayor of Rome.

But now, with 105 seats in the 630-seat Chamber of Deputies, the National Alliance makes up around one-third of Berlusconi's winning majority and can expect rich ministerial rewards.

For Fini the victory was a sweet moment.

"He was thrilled to bits," his wife Daniela told reporters. "He was ecstatic."

(Reuters, WP)