Emma Bonino, the fighter
Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
"Stop loving me so much and vote for me more," Bonino, a long-time radical activist and one of the country's most popular political figures, pleaded recently.
A veteran of battles for the right to divorce and abortion, lung cancer survivor Bonino is swimming against a right-wing tide as she makes a bid for parliament with her small party More Europe. Bonino, who will be 70 on March 9th, has returned to campaigning after spells as the European Consumer Protection Commissioner and Italian foreign minister to defend migrant rights and the European Union as both come under severe attack.
However she knows it's an uphill battle, with her party, part of the centre-left coalition led by Matteo Renzi's Democratic Party (PD), fighting to make the three percent threshold that would allow it to enter parliament.
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Giorgia Meloni, the far-right firebrand
Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
One of the faces of the Italian far-right, the 41-year-old Roman leads Brothers of Italy (FdI), which alongside right-wing coalition partner and rival The League is leading the charge against migrants and the EU. Meloni's party is one of the four led by Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia (Go Italy) that look set to take the most votes, with FdI expected to pick up around five percent.
Promising to restore order and hunt down migrants, Meloni, who was Berlusconi's youth minister between 2008-2011, made headlines and a splash on social media recently when she argued with the head of Turin's Egyptian Museum about discounted entry to Arab-speaking visitors.
As a result of her long history within the extreme-right, which can be traced back to when she was 15 years old, Meloni was recently stopped from holding a meeting by activists in left-wing stronghold Livorno.
Laura Boldrini, the target
Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
The campaign has been particularly hard on 56-year-old Boldrini, the outgoing speaker of Italy's lower house of parliament and a candidate with left-wing party Free and Equal (LeU). She has been subjected to incessant -- frequently sexist -- personal attacks.
For the right, the former spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is the personification of political correctness that has enabled a "migrant invasion".
Fake news has been spread online about fictitious scandals involving her relatives. An effigy with her likeness has been burned and even images of her severed head published on social media.
Maria Elena Boschi, the teacher's pet
One of the leading faces of the Renzi government, Boschi, 37, was head of the proposed constitutional reform that was beaten back in a referendum in December 2016 and led to him stepping down as Prime Minister.
She has remained in government but her position has been seriously weakened by a scandal surrounding the rescue of a bank of which her father was administrator, even if anti-trust authorities ruled out any conflict of interests. Nonetheless the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) has entrusted to her a constituency that is virtually won in advance.
In Italy, candidates can present themselves in several regions at once, and Boschi is standing in five constituencies. Her candidacy in German-speaking Bolzano, on the border with Austria, led to taunts on social media and the resignation of several local activists.
Beatrice Lorenzin, the bridge
Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP
Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin, 46, leader of a new centrist party Popular Civic List, is fighting for a presence in parliament. The List is allied with the PD and could play a key role should a grand coalition between the centre-right and centre-left be proposed post-election.
Even if Popular Civic List doesn't obtain the magic three percent it needs, the votes Lorenzin gets will go to the PD as long as she manages more than one percent -- which could help the faltering PD and Renzi keep a foot in the race.
In November 2013 Lorenzin was one of a group of defectors from People of Freedom (Berlusconi's former party) to support a PD-run government headed by Enrico Letta, following the collapse of the grand coalition that came about from the last general elections. They kept their places once Renzi became prime minister the following February.
Both the far-right League and anti-establishment Five Star Movement have promised to repeal her law which made ten new vaccines mandatory for school children.
By Fanny Carrier