Right-wing bloc on course for Italian election victory

A right-wing coalition led by Italy’s Giorgia Melonis brothers is on course for a decisive victory in Italy’s snap elections after defeating a series of rivals who failed to forge a unified front to more effectively oppose to step up to the block, exit polls showed.

Meloni’s coalition — which includes Matteo Salvini’s nationalist League and media magnates and ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia — is said to have received between 42 and 49 percent of the total vote, enough to secure a comfortable parliamentary majority.

However, the right-wing coalition appears to have missed the two-thirds of seats it would need to advance its plans to amend Italy’s constitution, according to the polls.

Under Italy’s complicated electoral system, a third of parliamentary seats are up for grabs in first-past-the-post races, giving centre-right parties, who united behind a single candidate in each of these areas, a significant advantage while their opponents swung bickered among themselves.

Melonis Brothers of Italy, heirs to the neo-fascist movement, will be the strongest party in the new parliament with around a quarter of the vote. It seems likely that it took a larger percentage than the League and Forza Italia combined, as exit polls showed.

The results mark a triumph for Meloni as the brothers of Italy garnered just 4 percent of the vote in the last general election in 2018, although analysts warned their support could prove short-lived given the huge challenges they face.

“If you look at the last 30 years, there’s been a bunch of people who sold themselves as new, grabbed attention for a while, usually found it hard to deliver, and then people got angry. Voters are quickly moving on to someone else,” said Daniele Albertazzi, a politics professor at the University of Surrey.

Italy’s electoral process has been closely watched in Brussels and Washington, where policymakers are concerned about what the new government will mean for Rome’s relationship with the EU and Italy’s approach to the war in Ukraine.

Outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi took a strong stance against the Russian invasion and helped draft tough EU sanctions against Moscow. Meloni has also harshly criticized the invasion and vowed to maintain the strong position vis-à-vis Russia.

But their partners’ views are more ambiguous. Salvini, a longtime Putin admirer, has complained about the toll the sanctions have taken on Italian families and businesses, while Berlusconi, aged 86 on Friday, seemed to justify the invasion by saying all Putin has is the Kievans want to replace the government of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with “decent” people”.

Global markets will also be watching with interest the form of the new government, particularly the composition of the new cabinet – and who will get the critical post of finance minister.

In a note shortly after polls closed on Sunday night, rating agency Moody’s noted that Italy’s national debt – estimated at around 150 percent of GDP – was “vulnerable to negative growth, financing costs and inflation developments”.

Despite all the intense international attention to the outcome, Italians themselves were less than enthusiastic about the election, reflecting their growing disillusionment with the political process.

As of 7 p.m. local time – four hours before polling stations closed – only 51 percent of the country’s 51 million eligible voters had cast their ballot, compared with 58 percent who voted at the same time of day in 2018. Final turnout is expected to be well below the previous all-time low of 73 percent in these 2018 polls.

“The perception is whether you vote or not, nothing really changes and all politicians are the same,” said Valerio Alfonso Bruno, a fellow at the UK-based Center for the Analysis of the Radical Right. “A lot of Italians see politics in such a way that if we have Meloni this time, really nothing new will happen.”

The right-wing coalition has promised the Italians they would provide stable, effective government for five years – something the country has long eluded. But despite the bloc’s seemingly comfortable majority, analysts warned of turmoil as a result of personal rivalries between the three leaders, particularly Salvini’s waning resentment of the rising Meloni.

“I don’t think we will have elections again any time soon, but we will see constant fighting,” Albertazzi said. “It is very unlikely that government life will be smooth and easy.”

Ahead of the elections, Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s close political ally and former lawyer, tweeted his support for Meloni and Salvini and expressed hope that “Italians will elect them to lead their nation wisely and make Italy great again.” make”.

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https://www.ft.com/content/9b0cd8f3-61d8-410d-97c5-3756b91c24ab Right-wing bloc on course for Italian election victory

Adam Bradshaw

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