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Holocaust survivor to oversee start of rightist Italian parliament

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By Crispian Balmer

ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s new parliament opens on Thursday, with a Holocaust survivor due to preside over the first session of the upper house Senate as the most right-wing coalition since World War Two takes control of both chambers.

Liliana Segre was the only member of her family to emerge alive from the Nazi Auschwitz concentration camp at the end of the war. Honoured as a senator for life, the 92 year-old is the oldest active member of the house, meaning she will start proceedings.

The Senate’s first duty will be to elect a president, who is likely to be Ignazio La Russa – a senior member of the nationalist Brothers of Italy party, which won the most seats in the Sept. 25 election.

A video posted in 2018 on the Corriere della Sera wesbite of La Russa in his home showed he collected memorabilia of Italy’s wartime fascist leader Benito Mussolini.

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.

Segre made no public comment about the recent election or the expected elevation of La Russa, whose middle name is Benito, to the role of Senate speaker – the second highest institutional job in Italy after the president of the republic.

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.

Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni looks sure to become Italy’s first female prime minister after her party won more votes than her main allies – the anti-immigrant League, headed by Matteo Salvini, and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia group.

She will face a daunting task, with the euro zone’s third largest economy heading into recession, energy prices soaring and the war in Ukraine showing no sign of easing.

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 investors, but none has so far shown willing to join her administration.

The upper and lower houses will be less crowded 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, will be former prime minister Berlusconi, who is 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)

 

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