There is discord in Italy’s centre-right government coalition after a leading Italian army general was replaced in his role for publishing a controversial book.
Titled Il Mondo al Contrario (The World in Reverse), General Roberto Vannacci’s work caused uproar as he expressed critical views about gay people, immigrants, feminism and many other hot-button issues.
Guido Crosetto, the Italian defence minister and long-time member of the national-conservative Fratelli d’Italia party, was quick to censure Gen Vannacci. He called the book a collection of “rantings” that had “discredited the army”.
However, Crosetto is now having to take the to the defensive, declaring that he “does not feel isolated” as he comes under fire from many within both his own party and from coalition partners. His stance comes after Matteo Salvini, the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Lega party, held a “very cordial” phone call with Vannacci, according to Lega sources speaking to Italian wire-service Ansa.
Vannacci didn’t reveal much of the phone call’s details, saying he “was certainly pleased”. He added he felt it was good for a minister to show interest in the thoughts of a civil servant, especially as Vannacci maintains that “many Italians think like me”.
Speaking to the press, Salvini also remained tight-lipped on the phone call, only saying that he would buy the book.
He defended his decision by saying it is was the right thing to do to read and understand the work “before judging it”, adding he will also read the opinions of “those leftist journalists, who commented and condemned [the book] without having read it at all”.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has so far remained silent over the controversy. This is despite calls from left-wing Democratic Party members who have demanded she take sides with either her own defence minister or her allies who are defending Gen Vannacci.
It has been confirmed by the defence ministry that Gen Vannacci has been replaced in his role rather than sacked. This was done “to safeguard both the army and General Vannacci, who has been over-exposed in the media by the affair linked to his book”, it said.
Many backbenchers from the Right are declaring the Vannacci affair to be a matter of defending freedom of speech. Much of the Left has been quick to accuse the Right of hearkening back to Italy’s fascist past.
In between these two poles, Crosetto will now have his work cut out; while he demanded that Gen Vannacci not be made a “martyr”, it appears he is already too late, with right-wing parties already calling on Gen Vannacci to enter politics.