What you need to know about elections in Italy

ROME – Italians vote on Sunday for the first time in nearly five years in a national election that will usher in a new one, and polls predict the right-wing government will face challenges economic crisis, a deepening energy crisis and questions about Italy’s hard line against Russia and its unwavering support for the European Union.

The elections come after the national unity government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi, a darling of the European establishment who is widely credited with raising Italy’s prestige and influence, fell in the midst of an uprising in his alliance.

Elections were scheduled for February, but the early fall has raised familiar questions about Italy’s stability and the popularity of the country’s far-right opposition, which has grown outside the unity government, and raised doubts about Italy’s commitment to the European Union.

International markets, wary of the country’s huge debt, are in turmoil. And Italy’s support of sending weapons to Ukraine, which has influence in Europe, has emerged as a campaign issue, raising the prospect of a possible change. change the balance of power in Europe.

Despite the widespread popularity of Mr. Draghi, a European moderate, the infectious populist government, with its recent history of aggression towards Europe, has had a clear advantage in the survey.

The most popular of these is the far-right Brotherhood of Italy party, do Giorgia Meloni, has skyrocketed support as it is the only major party still in the opposition. If she does well as expected, she will become Italy’s first female prime minister.

Meloni is affiliated with the far-right and anti-immigrant League party, led by Matteo Salvini, and Forza Italia, the center-right party founded and still led by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Italian electoral law favors parties operating in a coalition, and thus the right coalition has an advantage over the divided left.

The largest party on the left, the Democrats, is voting about 22%. But Ms Meloni’s support has been polled by about 25% and the right is expected to win even more seats in Parliament, the base on which the government is formed.

The anti-establishment Five Star movement was appreciated for its strong showing in 2018, when it received more than 30% of the vote. But after participating in three different governments on the political spectrum, it lost its identity. Now headed by former prime minister Giuseppe Conte, it has chosen to operate alone. In recent weeks, its poll numbers have increased, thanks to support in the south, which is rewarding the party for passing, and now defending, a generous unemployment benefit.

A centre-right party called Azione, led by former minister Carlo Calenda and backed by another former prime minister, Matteo Renzi, would claim moral victory even if it only reached 6 or 7%.

While Ms. Meloni’s post-fascist roots have attracted attention and caused anxiety outside of Italy, few voters in Italy seem to care. The issues of the day are energy prices, inflation, cost of living and Italy’s policy towards Russia and Ukraine.

On the last issue, the conservative coalition is divided. Ms. Meloni, in part to reassure an international audience that she was a credible and acceptable choice, was a steadfast and outspoken supporter of Ukraine throughout the war. Although she is in the opposition, where she is critical of the coronavirus vaccine mandate, she has emerged as a key ally of Mr. Draghi on the issue of arming Ukraine.

Her coalition partners are uncertain on the matter. Mr. Salvini, a longtime admirer of Russian President V.Putin, even wearing a shirt with a Russian face, said that sanctions against Russia should be reconsidered.

Mr. Berlusconi was once Putin’s closest friend among Western European leaders. He once named a bed after Putin and still argues that he can make peace.

The conservative union has proposed cutting taxes on essential goods and energy, providing energy vouchers for workers and renegotiating Italy’s European Union recovery fund to correct high prices. than. The country is also looking to reinvest in nuclear power, something Italy has not produced since the 1990s and was banned in a 2011 referendum.

Its leaders have proposed a deep flat tax and the elimination of unemployment benefits common in the south – here called “citizen income”. The benefit, promoted with much fanfare by the Five Star Movement during its first government, acted as a subsidy for the lowest earners.

To bolster electoral support, far-right parties have also tried to make illegal migration an issue, although the numbers are much lower than in previous years. They are also campaigning to protect traditional parties from what Ms. Meloni calls a gay “corridor”.

The Power also wants to change the Constitution so that the president can be elected directly by the voters – not by Parliament, as it is today.

The center-left Democrats have argued for continuing a hard line against Russia and emphasizing energy policies that focus on renewable sources, cutting costs for low- and middle-income families. , while installing renewable plants to increase natural gas supplies as Italy faces a shortage of Russia. The party has advocated loosening the citizenship path for the children of Italian-born immigrants, and wants to increase penalties for discriminating against LGBTQ people. It also proposes introducing a minimum wage, cutting income taxes to increase net wages, and better paying teachers and healthcare workers.

The Five Star Movement, like Mr. Salvini, is not clearly taking a hard line against Russia and against Italian arms shipments to help Ukraine. Five Star Movement is proposing an energy recovery fund to address the price surge and invest in renewable energy. It is also calling for a new drilling moratorium for fossil fuels.

Voting will take place on voting night, but because polling places close at 11 p.m., no official results will be announced until the next day, or even later. But even with the results known, Italy won’t have a new prime minister for weeks.

New members of Parliament will be confirmed and convened in Rome in mid-October. They will then elect speakers for the Senate and House of Representatives, and party leaders for each house.

President Sergio Mattarella will then begin consultations with speakers from both chambers and representatives of the parties. The coalition that wins the most votes will nominate their candidate for prime minister. If their candidate can win a majority in the newly elected Parliament, the president will appoint a potential prime minister to form a new government.

It is predicted that if the Brothers of Italy win the most votes, their coalition parties will find it difficult to justify a prime minister other than Ms. Meloni.

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