Anti-Muslim, immigrant party to take key Italy cabinet posts

Italy's anti-immigrant Northern League party says it will take key posts in prime minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi's cabinet, positioning it to advance a crackdown on immigrants.

Anti-Muslim, immigrant party to take key Italy cabinet posts

The head of the Northern League, which surprised pundits by grabbing 8 percent of the vote in last week's polls, said in comments published on Monday that its cabinet posts will include interior minister, reforms minister and agriculture minister.

Berlusconi said on Monday his cabinet list was not yet finalised, and warned there would be some surprises. The cabinet will have to be approved by President Giorgio Napolitano.

Northern League leader Umberto Bossi said the post of deputy prime minister would go to League member Roberto Calderoli, who has outraged Muslims in past, such as wearing a T-shirt with Danish cartoons showing the Prophet Mohammad (PBHU).

He also promoted a "pig day" protest in a Muslim community last year, threatening to walk a pet pig where a new mosque was going to be built.

Muslims do not eat pork and it is banned to eat it.

"Reforms, security, defence of agriculture -- these are the reasons why people voted for us," Bossi was quoted as saying in La Stampa newspaper. He said he himself would become reforms minister in the new government.

The Northern League, which critics accuse of racism, doubled its support in the general election, rallying voters on issues such as crime and immigration. One of its campaign posters featured a Native American with the slogan: "They were subjected to immigration and now they live on reserves!"

Citizen defence groups?

Two rapes over the weekend involving foreign victims and alleged perpetrators have pushed crime and illegal immigration right to the top of Italy's political agenda as Berlusconi prepares to return for a third stint as prime minister.

Berlusconi, whose last term in power ended in 2006, has already signalled a crackdown on illegal immigrants who commit crimes, calling them "the army of evil" the day after his election. Appointing a Northern League interior minister would underline that immigration is a priority.

The League's Roberto Maroni, who Bossi said would become interior minister, on Monday applauded the idea of citizens' defence groups to help prevent crime while brushing off concerns about them taking the law into their own hands.

"These are details which are secondary to people's lives," Maroni told Corriere della Sera newspaper, adding such groups would not have the same powers as police. He said Italy was in the grip of a crime wave "linked to immigration, usually illegal".

Maroni said Romanian immigrants needed particular attention. More than 500,000 are estimated to live in Italy, a number which Rome says jumped dramatically following Romania's entry last year into the European Union. Many are Roma Gypsies living in squalid shantytowns.

"We must find a solution for them with an ad hoc measure, since they're EU citizens," he said.


Last Mod: 21 Nisan 2008, 18:22
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