Restaurant diners make fascist salutes as Italian election dominated by immigration debate

Diners make fascist salutes Credit: ITV News

Sat in a restaurant in Milan, diners openly make fascists salutes as they listen to Mussolini-era marching songs.

In a land once dominated by Il Duce, right-wing displays are becoming more commonplace.

On Sunday, Italy will head to the electoral polls in a campaign which has been dominated by the issue of immigration.

In the last four years, 600,000 economic migrants and refugees have arrived in the southern-European country.

It is not just far-right parties whose campaigns are focused on immigration, but those just to the right of the political centre are also now using the kind of language that was unimaginable in past election campaigns.

Anti-fascist demonstrations took place in cities across Italy at the weekend, with a protest in Milan heavily policed to separate them from a rival rally in the famous Piazza del Duomo held by the hard-right Lega Nord, or Northern League.

The party is led by Matteo Salvini who cultivates the image of family man, appearing on stage with his daughter, but who says he was to "clean Italian streets and towns" and whose slogan is "Italians first".

However, the 44-year-old does not believe his party is fascist, telling the weekend's rally: "This rabid anti-fascism that we're seeing today is against a fascism than no longer exists, it's nothing more than a deliberate distraction on the part of the establishment."

Matteo Salvini positions himself as a family man. Credit: ITV News

Despite his hardline rhetoric, Mr Salvini is leading the polls in much of northern Italy, and his party's influence has spread beyond the region.

In just a few short years, Lega Nord has gone from a small party in the north of Italy to a national party which could soon be part of the most right-wing Italian government since World War II.

Yet three-weeks-ago, Luca Traini a candidate who once stood for the same party shot six immigrants in the central Italian town of Macerata, and police later found Hitler's writings in his apartment.

Luca Traini, a former Lega Nord candidate shot six immigrants. Credit: ITV News

While far-right parties are unlikely to sweep to power in Italy in Sunday's election, and who are likely to not do that well at all, some of their words and ideas are now in the mouths of more traditional parties, and it is the future of Italian politics that some are worried about.

Emaneule Fiano fears right-wing ideas could gain strength in Italy. Credit: ITV News

Emaneule Fiano, a politician who is campaigning to try and get fascist-era memorabilia outlawed in the country fears "there is a danger that bad or very dangerous ideas of the last century could again regain strength".