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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Italy’s centre-left says election pact will stop right-wing landslide

Italy's centre-left Democratic Party teamed up with a small centrist group on Tuesday in a bid to stop the hard right winning power at September's election.

Italy's centre-left says election pact will stop right-wing landslide
The logo of the Italian Democratic Party (PD) pictured on the facade of its headquarters in downtown Rome. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

The alliance was seen as boosting the centre-left’s chances of preventing a right-wing triumph in the upcoming early election, set for September 25th, according to news reports on Tuesday,

“It’s now all to play for,” Carlo Calenda told a press conference after his Azione party, which is allied with the small +Europa, sealed the electoral pact with the Democratic Party (PD), the largest party on the centre-left.

READ ALSO: Italy to choose ‘Europe or nationalism’ at election, says PD leader

“We are solid and compact. We will win this election,” he said.

But polls consistently show a hard-right alliance is currently on course for an easy victory, led by the the post-fascist Brothers of Italy, and that the new centre-left group has a lot of ground to make up.

Leaders of the centre-left alliance said it may yet widen to include other parties.

PD leader Enrico Letta told a press conference on Tuesday that the alliance made the election an open race.

“We believe it is unthinkable that our country, after the government of [Mario] Draghi, will be led by a rightist government,” Letta said.

Democratic Party (PD) leader Enrico Letta (L) walks past Brothers of Italy (FdI) party leader Giorgia Meloni in parliament. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / POOL / AFP

The left has been under pressure to produce a winning ticket since the collapse last month of Draghi’s grand coalition, which kicked off a general election campaign quickly dominated by the right.

Brothers of Italy, which has a Christian nationalist and eurosceptic programme, is currently polling at around 24 percent.

Its allies – Forza Italia, led by ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, and Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League – are polling at around seven and 12 percent respectively.

A Swg poll published on Monday, ahead of the new centre-left deal, saw the PD polling at around 23 percent, while Azione and +Europe had a combined score of around six percent.

The PD and Azione vowed to stick to Draghi’s foreign policy in support of Ukraine and to ensure Italy followed through with a series of key reforms necessary to access billions of euros in European Union funds.

“The election will be a choice between an Italy that is one of the great countries of Europe, and an Italy allied with (Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor) Orban and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” they said in a statement.

READ ALSO: Russia denies interfering in Italy’s elections

Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni has flirted politically with Orban while Berlusconi is a long-term friend of Putin’s and Salvini’s ties with Russia have repeatedly come under scrutiny.

The centre-left pact came a day after Luigi Di Maio, the former head of the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), unveiled a new centre-left party called Civil Commitment, which signalled it was open to joining forces with left or centre-left parties.

M5S was the largest party in parliament before the latest political crisis but is now polling at 10 percent. It is expected to run alone and hopes to win the protest vote.

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy’s elections

Scandal-plagued former premier Silvio Berlusconi said he plans to return to Italy's parliament in upcoming elections, almost a decade after being forced out over a conviction for tax fraud.

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy's elections

“I think that, in the end, I will be present myself as a candidate for the Senate, so that all these people who asked me will finally be happy,” the 85-year-old billionaire and media mogul told Rai radio on Wednesday.

After helping bring down Prime Minister Mario Draghi last month by withdrawing its support, Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party looks set to return to power in elections on September 25th.

It is part of a right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy, which includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Berlusconi brushed off reports he is worried about the possibility of Meloni – whose motto is “God, country and family” – becoming prime minister.

Noting the agreement between the parties that whoever wins the most votes chooses the prime minister, he said: “If it is Giorgia, I am sure she will prove capable of the difficult task.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

But he urged voters to back his party as the moderate voice in the coalition, emphasising its European, Atlanticist stance.

“Every extra vote in Forza Italia will strengthen the moderate, centrist profile of the coalition,” he said in a separate interview published Wednesday in the Il Giornale newspaper.

League party leader Matteo Salvini (L), Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni and Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi pictured in October 2021. The trio look set to take power following snap elections in September. Photo by CLAUDIO PERI / ANSA / AFP

Berlusconi was Italy’s prime minister three times in the 1990s and 2000s, but has dominated public life for far longer as head of a vast media and sports empire.

The Senate expelled him in November 2013 following his conviction for tax fraud, and he was banned from taking part in a general election for six years.

He was elected to the European Parliament in 2019, however, and threw his hat in the ring earlier this year to become Italy’s president — although his candidacy was predictably short-lived.

Berlusconi remains a hugely controversial figure  in Italy and embroiled in the many legal wrangles that have characterised his long career.

He remains on trial for allegedly paying guests to lie about his notorious “bunga-bunga” sex parties while prime minister.

Berlusconi has also suffered a string of health issues, some related to his hospitalisation for coronavirus in September 2020, after which he said he had almost died.

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