The new mayor of Rome has promised to purge the Italian capital of 20,000 illegal immigrants and to raze 85 gipsy camps.
Gianni Alemanno, 50, a firebrand neo-fascist and the first Right-wing mayor of the city since the Second World War, vowed to make Rome “secure” as he was sworn into office after his election at the weekend.
The election of Mr Alemanno confirmed a strong shift to the Right by Italians, who have been sickened by a spate of violent crimes committed by immigrants.
Earlier this month, the centre-Right leader Silvio Berlusconi was re-elected as prime minister and will form a government in partnership with Umberto Bossi, the leader of the anti-immigration Northern League.
In a sign of things to come, after Mr Alemanno’s election Mr Berlusconi declared: “We are the new Falange.”
The original Falange (or Phalanx) was the Spanish fascist party, founded in the 1930s, whose doctrine was adopted by General Franco.
Mr Alemanno’s election was celebrated by hundreds of supporters chanting “Duce! Duce!” and raising their arms in Mussolini’s fascist salute.
The new mayor said that his first action would be to begin “immediate expulsions” of the 20,000 immigrants in the city with criminal records.
“We cannot welcome them without discipline,” he said. “We will chase out the delinquents. There are 85 abusive nomad camps to destroy.”
He added that he would visit the widower of Giovanna Reggiani, a 47-year-old woman who was beaten, raped and killed by a Romanian immigrant who lived at a such a camp last November. “I want to promise him that what happened to his wife would never happen again,” he said.
Walter Veltroni, his Left-wing predecessor, was widely criticised for paying more attention to ancient monuments and film festivals than to problems with the city’s infrastructure and security.
Mr Alemanno was the youth leader of the fascist Italian Social Movement and wears a Celtic cross, a symbol of the extreme Right. However, he said he wore the cross only as a religious symbol, and in tribute to Paolo di Nella, a far-Right activist who was stoned to death in a Rome street protest 25 years ago.
Mr Alemanno said he was sick of the “continuing search for [my] dark side”, adding: “I am bitterly upset from a personal point of view at this demonisation.”
He promised to be a mayor for all Romans, and immediately sent letters to the Vatican and to Rome’s Jewish community.
Graziano Halilovic, a spokesman for one of Rome’s biggest settlements of Roma gipsies, said: “We fear there will be night-time raids on the camps. We want a safe city too. Some of our members have heard their parents’ stories of fascism.”
Mr Bossi said on Wednesday that immigrants had to be hunted out, and that if reforms were not forthcoming, his followers would take up arms.
“We have no fear of taking things to the piazzas. We have 300,000 martyrs ready to come down from the mountains. Our rifles are always smoking,” he said.
Mr Alemanno has promised to tear down a £12 million museum around the Ara Pacis, an altar to the Emperor Augustus.
The sleek modernist building, designed by US architect Richard Meier, took more than a decade to build but was immediately labelled by one critic as resembling a “pizzeria”.