Statewatch News Online: Italy: Regional elections, false signatures and the mass violation of data protection as right wing conflict spirals out of control

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Regional elections, false signatures and the mass violation of data protection as right wing conflict spirals out of control

An ongoing conflict within the Italian right between Alessandra Mussolini and her erstwhile party colleagues from Alleanza Nazionale (AN) resulted in the temporary exclusion of the electoral list of her party Alternativa Sociale (AS) from the regional election in the Lazio region, before it was finally readmitted by the Consiglio di Stato (State Council), a court before which decisions taken by regional administrative courts can be appealed. The exclusion was a result of the submission of false signatures among those required for the party to run in the election. The governor of the Lazio regional council Francesco Storace (AN) announced on 12 March 2005 that Mussolini's party would not be allowed to run, following a ruling by the Rome Court of Appeal after the candidature had been appealed by acandidate from Storace's party. AS's electoral platform for last year's European elections was established in coalition with two other far-right parties, Roberto Fiore's Forza Nuova (FN) and Adriano Tilgher's Fronte Sociale Nazionale, and was also joined by Luca Romagnoli's Movimento Sociale Fiamma Tricolore for the coming regional elections. Polls have suggested that the list could win up to 5% of votes, and the run-up to the election had seen attempts by Silvio Berlusconi, the prime minister, to reach an agreement with Mussolini, an approach that was forcefully opposed by AN. The decision to exclude Mussolini's list was followed by an appeal submitted to the Tribunale Amministrativo Regionale (TAR, regional administrative court), and by a hunger strike by Mussolini, who claimed that it was a "non-violent initiative for civil and political rights". On 18 March, the TAR ruled in favour of upholding the exclusion of AS from the regional election because the regular conduct of the elections "would be seriously undermined in the light of the irregularities that have been ascertained" by the regional administration, some of which were not denied in the appeal filed by AS. Eventually, the list was re-admitted on 23 March after a successful appeal against the exclusion to the Consiglio di Stato, which ruled that the false signatures an were not "ascertained in the ways established by the law". Nonetheless, there have been suggestions that an appeal following the election could result in its annulment as a result of the fraudulent participation of AS, whose exponents argue that the fraudulent submission of signatures is widespread in Italian politics. Fraudulent practices were also found in the collection of signatures for AS to run in the elections in the Milan province, from which it was excluded after the 2,800 signatures submitted in Milan were reportedly found to have been fraudulent by the Digos (the carabinieri's special operations unit). The short-lived exclusion of AS in Lazio led to a string of initiatives against electoral lists accused of contravening legislation on the presentation of signatures in support, including an appeal by the Verdi - il sole che ride (left-wing Greens) against the Verdi ecologisti (Environmental Greens, who support Storace) which may lead to the exclusion of the latter group from the regional elections.

Illegal searches of city council personal records database

The scandal developed into an institutional clash between the centre-left run Rome city council and the Lazio regional council, because it surfaced that workers from the regional council had unduly accessed the records of the anagrafe (the office which runs the register of residents, as well as issuing identity cards and storing related personal records in its database) in Rome. The Italian data protection ombudsman's authority has reportedly started an investigation into the incident. The Rome city council reported that the IT system of the Rome anagrafe was "repeatedly violated" by the company Laziomatica, "a legal subject which is an expression of the Lazio regional council"* and is authorised to access the town council archives exclusively for the provision of health care services to citizens. City council officials alleged that 833 personal record checks were carried out from 4.51 to 7.50 a.m. and from 1.55 to 23.34 p.m. on 11 March, and a further 1,879 checks reportedly took place from 4.54 to 11.04 p.m. on 13 March. The city council presented a fax which included personal records concerning the actress Ornella Muti (who denied that she had signed for AS to run) as evidence that the regional council had run the illegal personal record checks. Mirko Maceri, the Laziomatica technical director who eventually admitted to having run the checks on request from a lawyer who was working on behalf of a candidate in Storace's list to file an appeal against the AS candidature, said that he "always acted correctly… following the company norm's and procedures". Romolo Reboa, the lawyer in question, who was acting as legal counsel for a candidate in Storace's list, defended Maceri's actions by arguing that "what he has done has prevented the deception of citizens". In spite of these claims of innocence, the Rome prosecutor's office investigating the case alleged that files from Laziomatica's PCs in the regional council offices were deleted after claims surfaced concerning the illegal intrusion into the anagrafe's records, and Maceri is under investigation for illegally accessing an IT system and for violating data protection legislation. Francesco Rutelli, from the Margherita party (part of the centre-left coalition) spoke of democracy being "in danger", while the DS leader Piero Fassino called for Storace's resignation.

Mussolini and AS in the EP and Italian parliament

Alessandra Mussolini was elected to the European Parliament in the elections held on 12-13 June 2004, as part of the far-right Alternativa Sociale con Alessandra Mussolini election ticket, which included neo-fascist groups like Roberto Fiore's Forza Nuova (FN) and Adriano Tilgher's Fronte Sociale Nazionale, receiving 398,036 votes and a 1.2% share of the vote. Mussolini left Alleanza Nazionale (AN, which is part of the governing right-wing coalition) after its leader Gianfranco Fini had disowned fascism as an expression of "absolute evil" during a trip to Israel in November 2003 (see Statewatch vol. 13 no.6), going on to set up her own party, Liberta d'Azione - Lista Alessandra Mussolini, in time to take part in the European elections. Mussolini has taken up her seat in the European Parliament in Strasbourg and is part of the Justice, Freedom and Security commission, which also includes Mario Borghezio, a Lega Nord MEP who has a long history of racist outbursts and xenophobic initiatives nehind him (see Statewatch vol. 9 no. 1 & no. 2). Mussolini was exultant after the election results, and regretted that it had been impossible to strike a deal with another far-right party, Fiamma Tricolore, which also managed to maintain an MEP in the Strasbourg parliament, with 0.7% of the vote (236,016 votes, down from 496,030 votes and a 1.6% share of the vote in 1999). In February 2005, Alternativa Sociale made its formal appearance in the Italian parliament after it was joined by Antonio Serena, who was elected as an MP in the ranks of AN before leaving the party and passing to the "mixed group" after Fini's visit to Israel in November 2003.

* Laziomatica S.p.A. is the Lazio regional council company for implementing the regional IT system to support the carrying out of institutional duties and functions of the regional public administration.

ANSA 15.1.2005, 9.2.2005; Il manifesto 17-19.3.2005; Corriere della Sera, 12.3, 19.3, 20.3.2005; Repubblica, 18-22.3.2005; Laziomatica website: ; Alessandra Mussolini's party website: ; Searchlight, July 2004; Statewatch vol. 13 no. 6.

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