Matteo Salvini, Silvio Berlusconi and Georgia Meloni appear poised to win Sunday’s election in Italy as part of a right-wing coalition
Rome (AFP) – Georgia Meloni led her right-wing allies in organizing a joint rally Thursday ahead of their expected victory in the weekend’s election, which she hopes will become Italy’s first female prime minister.
Meloni’s post-fascist Italy Brothers are campaigning for Sunday’s vote in coalition with the far-right League led by Matteo Salvini and Forza Italia led by Silvio Berlusconi.
But opinion polls have put it ahead, suggesting it will guide what would be Italy’s first far-right-led government since the fall of dictator Benito Mussolini after World War II.
“We’re ready! You’ll see on Sunday,” she declared to the packed crowd in Rome’s Piazza del
Popolo, most of them waving the flags of the Brothers of Italy.
Despite tensions within her alliance, she has pledged to rule for five years through a program that includes low taxes, increased social spending – and a strong defense of Italy’s interests on the world stage.
Meloni, 45, has sought to reassure investors worried about her links to Italy’s post-fascist movement
Elections are being closely watched in Brussels, where the prospect of a populist government skeptical of the European Union, the third largest economy in the eurozone, has raised concerns.
Meloni, 45, sought to reassure investors worried about her links to Italy’s post-fascist movement while, at the same time, wooing voters disaffected with the status quo.
“I vote for Meloni, she has never betrayed me,” Julie Ruggeri, a 53-year-old unemployed supporter, told AFP at a rally in Rome.
– concrete measures –
The event signaled the start of the final race for Italian politicians ahead of the weekend’s campaign blackout.
Meloni will head to Naples on Friday, amid signs that the populist Five Star Movement – which won the most votes in 2018 – is gaining ground in the impoverished south.
Composition of the Italian Chamber of Deputies and Senate on September 21, 2022
Hyperinflation, a looming winter energy crisis and tensions with Russia over the war in Ukraine have dominated the election campaign in Italy, which has just recovered from the shock of the coronavirus pandemic.
Europe was also on the horizon, with Italy set to receive nearly 200 billion euros ($200 billion) in post-pandemic EU money by 2026 in exchange for structural reforms demanded by Brussels.
Meloni is no longer urging an exit from the euro but pledged on Thursday to lead an Italy “strong, serious and respected on the international stage”, while the right-wing coalition platform calls for a review of EU rules on public spending.
Alliance members do not always deal with each other, which raises concerns about the stability of their possible future government.
Meloni and Salvini follow a nationalist agenda and demand an end to mass immigration, while emphasizing traditional family values and Italy’s “Judeo-Christian” past.
Salvini vowed to “protect Italy and the Italians” in a wide-ranging speech at a rally in Rome
But while Salvini has long been a fan of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has criticized Western sanctions on Ukraine, Meloni is a strong supporter of Kyiv and their alliance committed to NATO.
The Russian Embassy in Italy tweeted four photos on Thursday showing Putin with nearly all party leaders on Sunday – with the notable exception of Meloni.
From the recent history of relations between Russia and Italy. “We have some memories” of what was widely seen as pre-election phishing, the embassy wrote.
– hesitant –
The rally was the first appearance of its kind for Berlusconi, who turns 86 next week, and it looked like he needed help getting on the podium.
The former billionaire and media mogul declared that “Italy does not want to be ruled by the left,” and vowed to fight “financial repression.”
Next came Salvini, who vowed to “protect Italy and Italians” in a wide-ranging address against Europe, immigrants, taxes and multinational corporations.
The League leader was somewhat overshadowed by Meloni, as her outspoken style and outward position pushed her party to the brink of power.
About 40 percent of Italians say they have not yet decided or will not vote in Sunday’s election
In the 2018 elections, the Brothers of Italy – born a decade earlier into the post-fascist movement founded by Mussolini supporters – won just over four percent of the vote.
Her popularity soared after Meloni became the only major party leader not to join the National Unity coalition led by outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi in February 2021 – making her the only effective opposition.
Draghi called snap elections in July after his coalition collapsed.
Recent polls see Brothers of Italy around 24-25 percent, ahead of the centre-left Democratic Party at 21 or 22 percent, followed by Five Star at 13-15 percent.
With the League at 12 per cent and Berlusconi’s party at 8 per cent, Meloni’s coalition looks set to secure between 45 and 55 per cent of seats in parliament.
But with 40 per cent of Italians saying they have not yet decided or will not vote, experts warn there is still room for some anger in a country notorious for its precarious politics, with nearly 70 governments since 1946.