Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi praised Benito Mussolini at a Shoah commemoration event in Milan on Sunday.
Having appeared to fall asleep during the ceremony, Mr Berlusconi told reporters that while the fascist dictator’s 1938 antisemitic laws were “were the worst fault of Mussolini as a leader”, in other respects he “did good things”.
Mr Berlusconi’s remarks appeared to be an attempt to win votes from the far right and reverse the decline of his People of Freedom party ahead of the general election on February 24 and 25.
Mr Berlusconi said: "Obviously the government of [Benito Mussolini's] time, out of fear that German power might lead to complete victory, preferred to ally itself with Hitler's Germany rather than opposing it.”
Mr Berlusconi, who resigned in November 2011, previously headed a coalition government with the neo-Fascist National Alliance party.
His People of Freedom party has not yet named a candidate for the position of prime minister.