A far-right Italian lawmaker has resigned after proposing to rename a public garden “Mussolini”.
Claudio Durigon confirmed he had stepped down as the League’s undersecretary for the economy after a meeting with party leader Matteo Salvini.
He had generated controversy after proposing to change the name of a square in the coastal town of Latina to that of Arnaldo Mussolini, the younger brother of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
The suggestion widespread sparked anger from Italian MPs, who had called for Durigon to resign.
“I have decided to resign from my government post, which I have always carried out with the utmost commitment, pride and seriousness,” Durigon said in a letter on Thursday.
“It is clear that, in my proposal on the Latina municipal park, although in absolute good faith, I made mistakes,” he admitted.
“I regret this and, ready to pay the price, I apologise above all,” he added, stating that he has always been against a dictatorship.
“I am sorry that a ‘fascist’ identity has been attributed to me, in which I do not recognise myself in any way. I am not, and never have been, a fascist.”
The municipal park in Latina, where Durigon was born, had previously been named after Arnaldo Mussolini before it was changed in 2017. It is currently named “Falcone-Borsellino”, after two Sicilian magistrates who were murdered by the Italian mafia in 1992.
“I only wanted to pay homage to the memory of the city, not to compare the names of the murdered judges with that of Mussolini’s brother or to make an absurd comparison between them,” said Durigon.
The politician added that he had been a “victim of the media and of “instrumental attacks” by other political forces.
Italian MPs had threatened to petition for a motion of censure to split the government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi if Durigon did not resign.
“It is incompatible with the Italian constitution to name a square after Mussolini,” said the secretary-general of the progressive Democratic Party, Enrico Letta.
Former Italian PM and now president of the 5 Star Movement Giuseppe Conte also slammed Durigon’s proposal. Durigon had previously served as Italy’s Secretary of State for Social Affairs in Conte’s government.