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article imageBerlusconi sinks nationalist pick to run Italy state broadcaster

By AFP     Aug 1, 2018 in Politics

The nomination of a nationalist conspiracy theorist to head state broadcaster RAI was rejected Wednesday after Silvio Berlusconi led parliamentary opposition to a candidate proposed by the media magnate's supposed political allies.

Marcello Fao is a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin and close ally of Berlusconi's former coalition partner Matteo Salvini, deputy Prime Minister, Interior Minister and leader of the far-right League that governs alongside the populist Five Star Movement.

The proposal on Friday of Foa, a 54-year-old Italian-Swiss journalist who for over two decades worked for the right-wing "Il Giornale" newspaper owned by the Berlusconi family, sparked a volley of criticism from opposition parties as being a purely political nomination.

Foa has publicly supported anti-vaccine theories, retweeted neo-fascists on Twitter and claimed that NGOs are operating an "immigration factory".

In December 2016 he leant credence to a supposed, but non-existent, attempted coup d'etat against US president Donald Trump.

In June last year the Swiss Corriere del Ticino newspaper of which he was CEO published a front page leading with a story -- quickly proved to be false -- about the German government ordering the downplaying of an islamic terrorist threat. The story was later retracted.

Foa's nomination was shot down thanks to opposition from the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and in particular Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia (FI), whose votes were decisive in blocking the nomination.

Berlusconi objected to not having been consulted by Salvini, saying that it was a "bad sign" that a decision for such a key position was "agreed only within the government".

In a statement the League expressed displeasure at "the the PD-FI axis that is trying to stop change".

FI and the League had campaigned together ahead of March's general election as part of a four-party right-wing coalition in which the League won the most votes. The two parties also govern together in a host of local and regional administrations.

The right became the largest group in parliament follow the national vote, but could not command an outright majority. Tensions between Salvini and Berlusconi have been high ever since the League agreed to form a government with Five Star, the country's largest single party and fierce rivals of the former prime minister.

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