Paolo Gentiloni, Italy’s prime minister, speaks during an end of year news conference in Rome, Italy (Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg)

Italian Election Campaign Sours After Shooting Targets Migrants

(Bloomberg) -- Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni condemned a drive-by shooting in the city of Macerata that targeted migrants, and asked all political parties to act responsibly ahead of national elections on March 4.

Italian Election Campaign Sours After Shooting Targets Migrants

“I trust in the sense of responsibility of all political forces,” Gentiloni said Saturday during a news conference in Rome after the incident. “Criminals are criminals and the state will be particularly harsh with anyone that wants to fuel a spiral of violence.”

Local media in Macerata, central Italy, reported that at least six people, all African migrants, were injured by a man firing shots from a moving car. Police posted photos on Twitter showing the arrest of an Italian man identified as Luca Traini, 28, a member of the right-wing Northern League party and a failed candidate in local elections last year.

The shooting spree followed the murder of an 18-year-old woman whose dismembered body was found Jan. 31 in two suitcases near Macerata. A 29-year old Nigerian man, who was denied asylum last year but remained in Italy, was arrested in connection with the murder.

Government Blamed

“The Left has blood on its hands,” Northern League leader, Matteo Salvini, wrote on his Facebook page, saying the government had some responsibility in the murder for not expelling migrants. “What was this worm still doing in Italy?”

Former Premier Matteo Renzi, now leader of the Democratic Party, accused the League of fostering hate. “That man was a candidate with the Northern League and also shot at the local Democratic Party offices before being captured,” Renzi wrote on Facebook referring to the shooter. He urged “everyone, but really everyone, to remain calm.”

Earlier near Florence, Renzi in a speech said former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right coalition, which includes the Northern League, was in the hands of “green shirts and not moderates” and a vote for them was a vote “for extremists.” He was referring to the green shirts often worn by Northern League supporters at party rallies.

Five Star Movement candidate Luigi Di Maio, campaigning in Sicily, asked parties to avoid comments on the Macerata events. “It’s not possible that even in the face of such a tragedy people feel they need to turn it into part of the electoral campaign.”

Di Maio’s party leads recent pre-election opinion polls with 28 percent compared with the center-left’s 27 percent. The center-right coalition is, however, set to be the biggest bloc with 37 percent of the vote, according to a Bloomberg calculated average of January polls.

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