Mussolini to challenge party boss
ROME, Italy -- The granddaughter of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini says she will challenge Gianfranco Fini for the leadership of the National Alliance.
The announcement comes after Fini retracted in a TV interview of his view of Mussolini as the 20th century's "greatest statesman."
Mussolini's granddaughter, Alessandra, was outraged, calling it a "disgusting" display of "opportunism."
The move is bound to divide the right-of-centre National Alliance, which is a major component of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's coalition government. Mussolini said the party needed a "big shaking up."
Fini, one of Premier Silvio Berlusconi's closest allies and a deputy premier in the conservative government, founded the National Alliance on the ruins of fascism.
Although he has moved the party toward the conservative mainstream, he is still viewed with suspicion in many European political circles.
Despite this, Berlusconi seems determined to create an international role for Fini. He has been rumoured as a potential foreign minister and on Friday the government said it wanted him as its representative on a convention of the future of the European Union.
Alessandra Mussolini, 39, rocketed to fame in 1992 when she was elected to parliament in a Naples constituency two years before Berlusconi's first centre-right government came to power.
Mussolini has often had public scrapes with Fini, but challenging him for the leadership could disturb party discipline with knock-on effects for Berlusconi's coalition.
Fini, a suave 50-year-old who is one of Italy's most popular public speakers, has been trying to moderate the image of Italy's right since founding the National Alliance in 1994.
When Fini did his about-face on Benito Mussolini on Tuesday, the dictator's granddaughter blasted him.
"I don't like politicians who try to warp history for their own ends," she said.
If anyone had any doubts about her fury, she avoided sitting on her party's benches in parliament for the day.
The once-aspiring actress and model has made it clear over the years that she is fiercely proud to be a descendant of the man who ruled Italy with an iron fist for over two decades.
Alessandra Mussolini's aunt is film star Sophia Loren. Her mother is Loren's younger sister and her father was Romano Mussolini, one of the dictator's sons. Her grandfather was executed by partisans at the end of World War Two.
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