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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Italian parties pitch abroad in trilingual election videos

Days after Italy's far-right leader made a multilingual appeal to foreign commentators to take her seriously, her main rival in September elections issued his own tit-for-tat video Saturday condemning her record.

Italian parties pitch abroad in trilingual election videos
Enrico Letta attends the second edition of the Francophonie's Economic Forum in Paris. Photo: JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP

Former prime minister Enrico Letta, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, declared his pro-European credentials in a video in English, French and Spanish, while deriding the euroscepticism of Italy’s right-wing parties.

It echoes the trilingual video published this week by Giorgia Meloni, tipped to take power in the eurozone’s third largest economy next month, in which she sought to distance her Brothers of Italy party from its post-fascist roots.
“We will keep fighting to convince Italians to vote for us and not for them, to vote for an Italy that will be in the heart of Europe,” Letta said in English.

His party and Meloni’s are neck-and-neck in opinion polls ahead of September 25 elections, both with around 23 percent of support.

But Italy’s political system favours coalitions, and while Meloni is part of an alliance with ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and anti-immigration leader Matteo Salvini, Letta has struggled to unite a fractured centre-left.

Speaking in French perfected in six years as a dean at Sciences Po university in Paris, Letta emphasised European solidarity, from which Italy is currently benefiting to the tune of almost 200 billion euros ($205 billion) in
post-pandemic recovery funds.

“We need a strong Europe, we need a Europe of health, a Europe of solidarity. And we can only do that if there is no nationalism inside European countries,” he said.

He condemned the veto that he said right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor “Orban — friends and allies of the Italian right — is using every time he can (to) harm Europe”.

In Spanish, Letta highlighted Meloni’s ties with Spain’s far-right party Vox, at whose rally she spoke earlier this summer, railing at the top of her voice against “LGBT lobbies”, Islamist violence, EU bureaucracy and mass
immigration.

In English, he condemned the economic legacy of Berlusconi, a three-time premier who left office in 2011 as Italy was on the brink of economic meltdown, but still leads his Forza Italia party.

Letta’s programme includes a focus on green issues — he intends to tour Italy in an electric-powered bus — and young people, but he has made beating Meloni a key plank of his campaign.

Meloni insisted in her video that fascism was in the past, a claim greeted with scepticism given her party still uses the logo of a flame used by the Italian Social Movement set up by supporters of fascist leader Benito Mussolini.

In a joint manifesto published this week, Meloni, Berlusconi and Salvini committed themselves to the EU but called for changes to its budgetary rules — and raised the prospect of renegotiating the pandemic recovery plan.

Elections were triggered by the collapse of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government last month, and are occurring against a backdrop of soaring inflation, a potential winter energy crisis and global uncertainty sparked by
the Ukraine war.

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Italian elections LIVE BLOG: First exit polls expected after 11pm

Italy voted on Sunday in crucial polls expected to result in the first far-right government in the country’s postwar history. Follow The Local's latest updates as results come in on election night.

Italian elections LIVE BLOG: First exit polls expected after 11pm

MAIN POINTS:

  • Polls closed at 11pm
  • Exit polls due before 11:30pm
  • Turnout appears to be lower than 2018 election
  • Right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party expected to win by a landslide

23.00 Polls closed

That’s all, folks. Voting is now over, polling stations are closing their doors, and the first exit polls with predicted results will come out within the next half an hour.

22.55 – Campaign blackout?

Election campaigning was supposed to end officially on Friday night, when a blackout begins before the vote to give voters a “period of contemplation”. 

Of course campaign blackouts aren’t that realistic in the time of social media though and it just means candidates get creative with their messaging.

Take for example this TikTok video posted by FdI leader Giorgia Meloni today:

She’s saying “September 25th – I’ve said it all” – a reference to the fact that she’s not really meant to be saying anything. And yes, her surname means ‘melons’.

22:40 – What’s a super-majority in Italy?

Italy’s election on Sunday is expected to produce a far-right government, but how big a majority will it have and what difference does this make?

In Italy there is a difference between a majority and a so-called super-majority. Here’s a quick guide to how the system works, what the difference is, and why it matters so much.

READ ALSO: What’s the difference between a majority and ‘super majority’?

22.30 What are the expected results?

This definitely hasn’t been an election campaign that has kept us on the edge of our seats.

The prediction from the start of the election campaign has been that the right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party will win by a landslide, allowing it to form a government with a large majority.

The most recent opinion polls, published two weeks ago before the pre-election polling embargo began, showed this was by far the most likely outcome.

Italian elections: What’s the difference between a majority and ‘super majority’?

But after what’s been called “one of the worst election campaigns of the post-war period”, with the result looking sure from the start and a severe shortage of any policy to discuss, is there any chance of a surprise result livening things up?

Probably not, the experts say – although voter sentiment has apparently shifted somewhat since the last polls two weeks ago.

Support for the left-leaning Five Star Movement appears to have surged while the hard-right League is flagging, according to pollsters interviewed by Reuters this week.

Still, most said the prediction that the right will take a majority in both houses of parliament and form the next government remains by far the most likely outcome, even if it has been thrown into doubt somewhat by Five Star’s rise.

The polls close in half an hour, and we won’t have much longer to wait after that for the exit polls, which give us an initial, if imperfect, idea of whether the long-predicted result is likely to become reality.

21.50 Long queues, but lower turnout

Long queues were reported at some polling stations around the country today, in some cases with voters queuing before they opened at 7am – leading to speculation that there would be higher turnout than in the 2018 election

But it looks like turnout is in fact lower, according to interior ministry figures, which put it at 51 percent at 7pm – four hours before polls closed – down from 58 percent.

EXPLAINED: Who’s who in Italy’s general election?

The lowest turnout was in the south and islands, according to analysis of the official data by Youtrend, at 40 percent – 12.1 percent lower than in 2018. Political commentators are saying this is likely bad news for the Five Star Movement, which won most of its support from southern regions in 2018.

This highest turnout at 56 percent was in the north-west, which also happens to be where the far-right Brothers of Italy party and the League (formerly the Northern League) have their biggest support base.

Another interesting bit of analysis from Youtrend: turnout is down much more in municipalities with fewer foreign residents (-10.6%) and is down much less in areas where more foreigners live (-5.4 %). “The more foreigners there are, the less the turnout falls”, Youtrend notes.

Lower turnout overall this time isn’t a surprise. Abstentionism was expected to increase, with opinion polls during the election campaign predicting as many as 16 million voters would refrain from voting – Italy has a voting population of just over 46.5 million.

Italian affluenza or voter turnout is generally fairly high by international standards: 73 percent of eligible voters voted in the last parliamentary election in 2018 – though this was the country’s worst-ever rate of participation, and the number has been steadily dropping for years.

Italy’s political leaders were pictured turning out for the vote. Here’s outgoing prime minister, Mario Draghi, who’s not campaigning for re-election and has made it clear he’s not interested in another term.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and his wife Maria Serenella Cappello arrive to cast their vote at the Liceo Mameli polling station in Rome. Photo by RICCARDO ANTIMIANI / ANSA / AFP

21.30 When do we get the first results?

Polls close at 11pm and counting starts immediately after. 

The first exit polls from the country’s leading news media should be out by 11.30. Though they are usually fairly close to the mark, exit polls can’t be relied upon entirely, as the 2013 exit poll debacle showed.

The time needed to announce the first official results depends on how many ballots there are to count. Turnout is expected to be similar to that at the last election in 2018 – maybe slightly lower – so Italian media are predicting 2am for the first official projections based on data from polling stations. Or maybe 3am. We could be in for a long night.

READ ALSO: An introductory guide to the Italian political system

Ballot papers for the election of the Senate are counted first. When that’s complete, volunteers will turn their attention to counting ballots for the lower house of parliament. 

21.00 Italy’s election night begins

Buonasera a tutti and welcome to The Local’s 2022 Italian election blog. There’s a lot at stake in these crucial elections as far right parties Brothers of Italy and the League are expected to win by a landslide.

Voting will close in two hours and we expect the first exit polls shortly after (you can read more here to get a sense of when things will happen tonight), but before then we’ll keep you posted with the latest news, predictions, expert insights and more.

READ ALSO: Far-right Brothers of Italy eyes historic victory as Italy votes

I’m The Local Italy’s editor Clare Speak and I’ll be updating you tonight as the exit polls and first results start to come in.

If you have questions, comments or feedback, please feel free to email or tweet me and I’ll do my best to answer (depending on how busy things get here tonight).

No matter how you feel about the election, I hope you’ll at least enjoy our coverage.

Not sure what to make of it all? Here’s our complete guide to the elections and what’s at stake.

Are you a member of The Local? If not, please consider joining us. If yes, thank you – your support helps us dedicate time and resources to this.

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