MILAN – The far-right candidate who aspires to be Italy’s first female leader came under fire Monday from opponents for posting a pixelized video that purports to show a woman being raped by an asylum-seeker.
Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party that has neo-fascist roots, on Sunday evening reposted a video on Twitter from an Italian news site that was taken by a witness from a window overlooking the street. The woman, identified as Ukrainian, can be heard yelling in distress. A 27-year-old asylum-seeker from Guinea has been arrested in the sexual assault, according to Italian media reports.
“One cannot remain silent front of this atrocious episode of sexual violence in broad daylight in Piacenza by an asylum-seeker,’’ Meloni wrote. “A hug for this woman. I will do everything possible to restore security to our cities.”
Her main opponent in the Sept. 25 vote, Democratic Party leader Enrico Letta, countered in a radio interview that reposting the video went beyond “the bounds of dignity and decency.”
A former education minister, Lucia Azzolina, said posting the alleged rape video “is not an official criminal complaint, but instrumentalization’’ of violence.
“(Seeing) a woman, candidate to run the country, using this media, is chilling,” Azzolina said.
And Carlo Calenda, leader of a small, new centrist party called Action, said “Meloni has done something not worthy of a civilized country, and against women.”
Meloni’s allusion to security in Italian cities is a right-wing theme in this election campaign, which also hits at immigration. She was backed by coalition partner Matteo Salvini, the leader of the right-wing League party and former firebrand interior minister, who pledged that “defending our borders and Italians will be a duty for me, not a right.”
In a video response to Letta’s criticism, Meloni emphasized that no one is identifiable in the video and that the center-left leader had failed to condemn the attack itself.
“Why don’t you speak of this? Because otherwise you need to come to terms with the fact that security in our cities is out of control, thanks also to the surreal immigration policies that you have pursued,’’ Meloni said.
Polls show the Brothers of Italia having a potential lead with voters over the Democratic Party ahead of the parliamentary election, but neither have enough support to govern alone.
Meloni can expect a significant boost from her coalition partners — the League and Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Forza Italia party — while Letta is aligned with much smaller parties.