Italian Meloni shocks opponents with alleged rape video

MILAN — The far-right candidate who aspires to become Italy’s first female leader came under fire on Monday by opponents for posting a pixelated video alleging a woman being raped by an asylum seeker.

Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party with neo-fascist roots, posted a video to Twitter on Sunday evening of an Italian news site taken by a witness from a window overlooking the street. The woman, identified as Ukrainian, can be heard screaming in distress. According to Italian media, a 27-year-old asylum seeker from Guinea has been arrested for the assault.

“You cannot be silent about this horrific episode of sexual assault in broad daylight in Piacenza by an asylum seeker,” Meloni wrote. “A hug to this woman. I will do everything I can to restore security in our cities.”

Her main opponent in the Sept. 25 vote, Democratic Party leader Enrico Letta, objected in a radio interview that the reposting of the video went beyond “the limits of dignity and decency.”

A former education minister, Lucia Azzolina, said the posting of the alleged rape video is “not an official indictment, but instrumentalization” of violence.

“[To see]a woman, candidate to run the country, using this media is horrifying,” 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 touches immigration. She was backed by coalition partner Matteo Salvini, the leader of the right-wing League party and former interior minister, who promised that “defending our borders and Italians will be a duty for me, not a right.”

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In a video response to Letta’s criticism, Meloni emphasized that no one is recognizable in the video and that the center-left leader has failed to condemn the attack himself.

‘Why don’t you talk about this? Because otherwise you have to come to terms with the fact that security in our cities is spiraling out of control, thanks in part to the surreal immigration policies you have pursued,” Meloni said.

Polls show that the Brothers of Italia have a potential voter lead over the Democratic Party in the run-up to the parliamentary election, but neither have enough support to rule alone.

Meloni can expect a significant boost from her coalition partners – the League and Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party – while Letta is on par with many smaller parties.

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