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Will a toxic election campaign lead to a far-right future for Italy?

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Italians go to the polls on Sunday in an election which could deliver the most far-right government in decades if a coalition led by former premier Silvio Berlusconi triumphs.

His partners include the League party headed by Matteo Salvini standing on a strong anti-immigrant, Eurosceptic platform.

At a rally in the northern Italian city of Padova this week Mr Salvini repeated his mantra of “Italians first” saying he would send illegal immigrants home but he has used much tougher language talking of “cleansing the streets” of Italy.

We put it to him that he is preaching the politics of hate and he told us: “I preach peace. I practise peace. I want a peaceful and quiet co-existence. Opening doors to regular migrants and sending back the too many illegal migrants here. I just want people who bring respect, culture and richness to Italy.”

Matteo Salvini
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Matteo Salvini could break away from the Berlusconi alliance

There are plenty in the crowd who share the respect and richness sentiment, telling us that immigrants without jobs should be forced to leave.

One man says: “So many immigrants come here and stay in hotels, in houses and don’t do anything all day and this isn’t good for Italy, it is not good for the Italian people.”

:: Berlusconi is back: The main players in Italy’s election

Another says: “Salvini has good ideas. Good for Italy. There are lots of people without jobs and too many immigrants.” He agrees that immigration is the main reason he will vote for League.

Mr Salvini has clearly tapped into what are widespread worries about the numbers of immigrants and asylum seekers entering Italy, mostly from Africa.

Hundreds of thousands have made it to the country’s shores in recent years and the current government led by Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni has been forced to work with African nations to try and stem the flow. The issue of immigration is an issue for all parties in this election.

An election poster for the Europa party is seen on the side of a bus in Rome
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An election poster for the Europa party is seen on the side of a bus in Rome

But it’s the rhetoric that Mr Salvini has used during the campaign which offends many Italians, some of whom have accused him of racism and xenophobia.

The image of the League was not helped when a man associated with the party was arrested after six immigrants were shot in the town of Macerata.

:: Sky Views: Italy could be Britain’s most influential ally during Brexit

Many wonder how rhetoric could translate into action were Mr Salvini to get into government, were he even to become Prime Minister (he says if his party wins more votes than Mr Berlusconi’s and their coalition forms a government, he should get the top job).

In a district of Rome with a strong history of ethnic integration we met Italian voters Cristina Grandi and Domenico Artusa.

They have been appalled by what they regard as a toxic election campaign where they believe far-right parties including the League have tried to sow fear and resentment.


Silvio Berlusconi



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Italians go to the polls

Ms Grandi told us: “They have pushed the idea that we have an enemy and the enemy is the refugee or the people coming the last year. So, they create every day on the television this idea so the people have a lot of problems.”

Mr Artusa expressed frustration that immigration was such a big issue during the election to the exclusion of other pressing matters.

“There was no room to talk about anything else,” he said, insisting there are other issues facing Italians.

“The problem the people have here are different. Money, work, housing. These are the problems, not migrants.”

But many will draw parallels with the high rate of youth unemployment across Italy and the lack of housing with the high level of migration which might explain why Mr Salvini has managed to extend the League’s support from its power base in the North into other parts of Italy.

Electoral panels for candidates' posters in Rome
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Electoral panels for candidates’ posters in Rome

Mr Salvini made the strategic decision to change the name of the party from “Northern League” (the party was founded to pursue regional autonomy for north Italy) to simply “League” to broaden its appeal during the election.

But it’s not just voters worrying. In an immigration centre close to where Mr Salvini held one of his closing rallies we found worried men wondering what is going to happen to them.

People like Francis Dapaa from Ghana who has been in Italy for nine months and is hoping to stay. He, like the men around him, is not immune to the politics playing out around them.

He told us: “What makes me worry is maybe when it comes to that party coming to power they might deport some of us and I don’t know if I may be victim to that. I don’t know. But I am praying that whoever comes to power will have compassion.”

The coalition Mr Salvini is signed up to was predicted to do well in the most recent polls in Italy two weeks ago.

He is further to the right than its leader, but Mr Berlusconi has echoed the promise to deport hundreds of thousands of migrants.

That centre-right coalition may be forced to do a deal with the centre-left if the election result numbers don’t add up and compromise is necessary.

But will Mr Salvini compromise on the very issue that drew supporters to him?

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Tokyo Olympics: Opening ceremony was ‘respectful, hopeful but sombre night’ | World News

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Olympic opening ceremonies are something of a unique art form. Playing to a global audience but with the host nation wanting to make the night their own.

Japan chose sombre. It was a respectful, hopeful but above all sombre night. They didn’t want to show off when everyone has lived through such hardship – and while so many people continue to do so.

Their display using 1,824 flying drones combining like a swarm of giant worker bees to create a giant globe stood out.

Naomi Osaka of Japan holds the Olympic torch after lighting the Olympic cauldron
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Naomi Osaka of Japan holds the Olympic torch after lighting the cauldron

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There were no Team GB fans at the 2021 summer olympic opening ceremony in Tokyo due to COVID-19 but Japan put on a stunning visual show regardless

So too Japanese tennis superstar Naomi Osaka who was given the honour of firing up the hydrogen-fuelled Olympic cauldron.

But it was their courteous bow towards the pain of the pandemic that defined the evening.

Video montages of empty cities during lockdowns, and athletes cobbling together training regimes in their back gardens – it all made for an understated opening ceremony.

Outside, the protests in the streets continued among those still vehemently against the Games taking place while Tokyo remains in a state of COVID emergency.

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There were also people outside who just felt drawn to the Olympic stadium – to come and wave to the very select numbers of VIPs and media going inside. It was as close as they could get to the Games that they had waited almost a decade for.

While these Olympics will feel unusual there were reminders too of the magic they can create.

There was a towering Tongan taekwondo player who strode into the stadium with his bare oiled chest puffed out as he carried his island nation’s flag like a warrior on a mission.

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Protests held outside Olympic stadium

The Olympics can still produce special moments like that and there will be plenty more over the coming weeks.

There will be more COVID-19 disruption too but the Games of 2020 are finally open, just one year late.

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Business leaders have ‘obligation to speak up’, ex-Unilever boss says amid Ben & Jerry’s row | Business News

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Unilever’s ex-boss has said business leaders have an “obligation to speak up” after his former company became embroiled in a row with Israel over its Ben & Jerry’s business.

Paul Polman mounted a defence of the need to “fight for what is right” in remarks to Sky News after the ice cream brand said it would stop selling its products in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Ben & Jerry’s is owned by consumer goods giant Unilever – whose array of brands ranges from Marmite spread to Dove soap – but has an independent board to take such decisions.

Alan Jope, Unilever chief executive
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Current boss Alan Jope has spoken to Israel’s prime minister about the matter

Its announcement is one of the strongest steps taken by a well-known company over Israel’s settlements, which are widely seen as illegal by the international community.

The move drew condemnation from the Israeli government, whose new prime minister Naftali Bennett said this week that Israel would “use the tools at its disposal – including legal – on this issue” and that those taking such action “need to know that there will be a price to pay”.

Mr Polman, speaking to Sky’s Ian King Live, said it would be inappropriate to say how he would have handled the issue had he still been in charge of Unilever.

But he added: “What is very important is if we want humanity to function for the long term we need to be sure that we fight for the basic values, the basic values of dignity, respect, equity, compassion.

“If we see these values being violated anywhere in the world I think we have an obligation to speak up.

“What we’ve seen in the US in the last few years – too few people, also from the business side, spoke up against things that then bit by bit moved the boundaries and put us in a very difficult situation.

Naftali Bennett will serve as prime minister for two years
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Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett said there would be a “price to pay”

“So, fight for what is right and one of the few things we should fight for always is, these basic human rights.”

Mr Polman was speaking a day after current Unilever boss Alan Jope, in a conference call to discuss latest results, said the company remains “fully committed” to doing business in Israel but gave no indication that Unilever would press Ben & Jerry’s to reverse the decision.

Mr Jope, who has spoken to Mr Bennett on the phone to discuss the matter, said that it was a “complex and sensitive matter”.

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Tokyo Olympics 2020: Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine withdraws to avoid facing Israeli competitor Tohar Butbul | World News

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An Algerian judo competitor has withdrawn from the Tokyo Olympics after learning he could have faced an Israeli opponent.

Fethi Nourine said his political support for the Palestinian cause made it impossible to compete against Tohar Butbul.

He told Algerian TV he would not “get his hands dirty” and his “decision was final”.

“We worked a lot to reach the Olympics, and the news came as a shock, a thunder”, he added.

Tohar Butbul of Israel
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Tohar Butbul of Israel

The 30-year-old was drawn against Sudan’s Mohamed Asdalrasool on Monday for his first match in the men’s 73kg class. If he had won that match, he would have faced Butbul, who has a first-round bye, in the next round.

Nourine also withdrew from the world championships in 2019 for the same reason.

At the time, his coach Amar Ben Yaklif was quoted in Algerian media saying: “We were unlucky with the draw. We got an Israeli opponent and that’s why we had to retire. We made the right decision.”

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Tensions between Israel and Palestinians flared in Jerusalem earlier this year causing the worst violence in the region since 2014.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Judo - Training Sessions - Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan - July 22, 2021. Technicians work on the mat in Nippon Budokan Arena, during training sessions. REUTERS/Sergio Perez
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Judo training sessions take place at the Tokyo Games

The conflict between the two sides has been going on for decades and has seen athletes from Iran and Egypt also previously refuse to compete against Israeli opponents.

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The opening ceremony for this year’s Olympic games took place on Friday, with fans not allowed in the national stadium for the event due to COVID-19 concerns.

Instead, around 1,000 dignitaries and members of the media were allowed the witness the spectacular event.

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