Alessandra Mussolini quits party
Alessandra Mussolini said yesterday she was quitting the right-wing National Alliance, days after the party's leader publicly condemned her grandfather Benito, Italy's Fascist dictator.
"They have sanctioned something not so much incompatible with my politics as with my very name," she told Italian news agency Ansa.
"It's not just tactics that count in politics, sentiments do too, as does the heart," added the 40-year-old, who on her first day in parliament asked to sit in her grandfather's chair.
She has long been at odds with party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini, who has shifted the National Alliance more to the centre and has just completed a controversial trip to Israel where he denounced Italy's Fascist past.
At a Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem on Monday, Mr Fini condemned Benito Mussolini for racial laws that led to the deportation and death of some 6,000 Italian Jews in Nazi camps.
He also said he had been mistaken in 1994 when he praised the dictator, who ruled Italy with an iron fist from 1922 to 1943, as a great statesman.
In September Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi also caused a row by saying Mussolini was a benign dictator who sent his enemies "on holiday in internal exile" and had no blood on his hands.
Alessandra Mussolini said she would remain a member of the lower house Chamber of Deputies and join a group of non-aligned lawmakers but National Alliance leaders immediately went into a huddle to try to convince her to change her mind.
"From a human point of view it's sad, from a political perspective, it's incomprehensible," said Ignazio La Russa, the political coordinator of Italy's third-largest party.
Ms Mussolini rocketed to political prominence in 1992 on the back of the country's most famous last names - that of her dictator grandfather and of her film-star aunt, Sofia Loren.
Once an aspiring actress and model, she has often said that she is fiercely proud to be a descendant of Benito Mussolini.
A magnet for nostalgic Italians, the blonde, dark-eyed Ms Mussolini built her political career on vows to restore her grandfather's ideals of hard work and pride to a nation whose reputation was hurt by political corruption scandals.