By Crispian Balmer and Angelo Amante
ROME (Reuters) -A Holocaust survivor presided over the opening of Italy’s new parliament on Thursday, recalling the dangers of fascism as the most right-wing coalition since World War Two took control of the upper and lower houses.
Liliana Segre was the only member of her Jewish family to survive the Nazi Auschwitz concentration camp and reminded parliamentarians of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the March on Rome that brought fascist leader Benito Mussolini to power.
The conservative bloc that is set to take power is led by the nationalist Brothers of Italy party, which traces its roots back to a post-fascist group set up by supporters of Mussolini.
“It is impossible for me not to feel a kind of vertigo remembering that the same little girl who, on a day like this in 1938, disconsolate and lost, was forced by racist laws to leave her empty desk at primary school, is now, by a strange twist of fate, at the most prestigious desk in the Senate,” Segre said.
Honoured as a life senator, the 92 year-old is the oldest active member of the chamber, meaning she started proceedings.
The Senate’s first duty will be to elect a speaker, who looks certain to be Ignazio La Russa – a senior member of the Brothers of Italy, which won 26% of votes in the Sept. 25 election, making it the most popular party in Italy.
A video of La Russa in his home, posted in 2018 on the Corriere della Sera website, showed he collected Mussolini memorabilia.
Mussolini ruled Italy for more than two decades, allying it with Nazi Germany and enacting anti-Semitic laws that ultimately led to the death of nearly 6,000 Italian Jews in camps.
Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni, who is poised to become Italy’s first female prime minister, has distanced herself from the far-right and says her party is a mainstream conservative force, like the U.S. Republican party.
The opening of parliament paves the way for the head of state to hold talks with party leaders about the formation of the new government, which is likely to take office before the end of October.
Meloni and her allies – the anti-immigrant League, headed by Matteo Salvini, and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia group – face a daunting task, with the economy heading into recession, energy prices soaring and the war in Ukraine still raging.
Talks on pulling together the coalition cabinet have also proved unexpectedly complicated, with both Salvini and Berlusconi demanding positions for their parties that Meloni has been unwilling to concede, political sources have said.
Filling the role of economy minister has proved especially hard. Meloni has looked to tap a respected technocrat for the sensitive role, seeking to reassure nervous investors, but none has so far shown willing to join her administration.
Political sources say the impasse could lead to a politician taking the job, with League deputy head Giancarlo Giorgetti, who served as industry minister in the outgoing government, seen as the most probable contender.
The upper and lower houses were noticeably less crowded on Thursday than before.
In an effort to reduce costs, the previous parliament voted to cut the number of lawmakers, meaning there will be just 400 deputies in the lower chamber against a previous 630 and only 200 elected senators compared with 315 before.
Among the reduced ranks of senators were former prime minister Berlusconi, who was making his return to the upper house at the age of 86, nine years after he was expelled from elected office following a conviction for tax fraud.
(Additional reporting by Angelo Amante; editing by Barbara Lewis and Andrew Heavens)