* Leader in lower house triggers storm with fascism comments
* Backtrack over pledge to back technocrat government
* Twitter mockery for new parliamentarians
By James Mackenzie
ROME, March 5 The political novices of Italy's
5-Star Movement had an early taste on Tuesday of the pressure
from a hungry media pack when one official created a storm by
defending fascism and another had to beg journalists not to ask
Roberta Lombardi, the newly appointed 5-Star leader in the
lower house of parliament, was singled out on Tuesday for a blog
post she wrote in January that praised some aspects of the
fascist movement of wartime dictator Benito Mussolini.
In the post from Jan. 23, Lombardi wrote of "the ideology of
fascism, which, before it degenerated, had a socialist-inspired
sense of national community and a very high regard for the state
and the protection of the family".
The comment made the front pages of most of the big daily
newspapers, prompting Lombardi, a 39-year-old employee of an
interior decoration firm, to issue a separate statement
declaring she was dumbfounded by the "exploitation" of the
"What was expressed was an exclusively historical analysis
of this political period, which I naturally condemn," she wrote
on her blog on Tuesday.
Similar comments in January by former Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi at a ceremony commemorating victims of the Nazi
Holocaust drew outrage from across the political spectrum.
Separately, Lombardi's colleague Vito Crimi, party leader in
the Senate, backtracked from comments on Monday that appeared to
suggest the 5-Star Movement could back a technocrat government
like the one led by outgoing prime minister Mario Monti.
On Tuesday an entry on his Facebook page said he had been
misinterpreted: "I never spoke about support for a technocrat
government," he wrote, adding that the movement's programme was
perfectly clear and he would not comment further.
"Today and tomorrow I will not respond to any journalists,"
he wrote. "Please respect my wishes and do not ask for
interviews or radio and television appearances."
The 5-Star Movement rode a wave of public anger against a
discredited political system to win more than a quarter of votes
in its first general election, creating one of the biggest
upsets in recent Italian history.
But the two incidents, a day after the officials were
appointed to their senior roles, underlined the risks facing the
group, whose 163 political beginners now make up the
third-biggest bloc in parliament.
Media interest has been intense and a scrum of reporters
invariably trails the movement's founder Beppe Grillo, who has
so far been the only public face of a movement that is deeply
suspicious of the mainstream press.
The new parliamentarians, none of whom have any significant
experience in public life, will now face intense media scrutiny.
The new deputies and senators faced some press and Internet
mockery over the earnest and unpolished tone many struck during
a meeting on Monday at which they introduced themselves to their
colleagues and the general public.
A Twitter hashtag called "ciaosono" ("HiI'm") satirised the
presentations, which were broadcast live over an online feed.
One read: "Hi, I'm Simona, I have a degree and I'm
unemployed. I bend over backwards to manage my monthly budget
and I want to be economy minister."
Grillo himself, who has so far controlled the communication
of 5-Star policy almost exclusively through his blog, warned of
the media pressure the movement's new lawmakers will face.
"It's clear we're going to be under assault from the
communications point of view, they're going to be hot for
anything," Grillo told the meeting.