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Italy’s Five Star Movement names its ministers pre-election in a break with tradition

Italy's anti-establishment Five Star Movement broke with tradition on Thursday by announcing its list of ministerial candidates, almost all of them political newcomers, before Sunday's general election.

Italy's Five Star Movement names its ministers pre-election in a break with tradition
Party leader Luigi Di Maio (centre) in Rome with his party's candidates for ministries. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

The party said it wanted to announce its candidates early to distinguish itself from traditional parties, which it said would be making backroom deals for nominations once election results are in.

“This is not a shadow government but a government in the light of day for Italians. We are doing something that has never been done before,” prime ministerial candidate Luigi Di Maio said at an event in Rome.

“Some people have mocked this decision but we will be the ones laughing on Sunday,” the 31-year-old said. “We have brought together this group of people so that everyone, everyone can get to know them personally and professionally,” he said, as he introduced each of the nominees individually and shook their hand.

Among the nominees were Emanuela Del Re, a professor of political sociology, for foreign minister, and criminologist Paola Giannetakis for interior minister.

Elisabetta Trenta, a lecturer in security and intelligence, was chosen to be defence minister and swimming champion Domenico Fioravanti as sport minister.

Ministers do not have to be elected to parliament in Italy. According to the last major polls, the Five Star Movement is set to become Italy's largest party after the March 4th election, but will not have a governing majority.

The party has repeatedly ruled out any formal coalition with other parties but has said it could seek to govern as a minority administration with parliamentary support.

Created in 2009 by former comedian Beppe Grillo and late web entrepreneur Gianroberto Casaleggio, the Five Star Movement has benefited from widespread disillusionment and anger at Italy's traditional political elites.

The populist, internet-savvy party rose to prominence at Italy's last general election in 2013 when it won a quarter of the vote and Di Maio was among 108 M5S candidates elected to the lower house of parliament.

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

On eve of election, Italy braces for potential far-right win

Italians on Saturday braced for seismic change, on the eve of an election forecast to hand Italy the most right-wing government since World War II.

On eve of election, Italy braces for potential far-right win

Out with internationally respected Mario Draghi and in — polls say — with Eurosceptic Giorgia Meloni, head of the post-fascist Brothers of Italy party, who is widely tipped to become the country’s first woman to head a government.

“The country is eager for a change, a new face,” Wolfango Piccoli of the London-based political risk consultancy Teneo told AFP.

Italy is battling a series of crises, from rampant inflation and extreme weather events linked to climate change, to an energy crisis aggravated by the war in Ukraine.

READ ALSO: Political cheat sheet: Understanding the Brothers of Italy

The campaign, sparked by Draghi’s downfall in July, wrapped up on Friday, giving Italians a day of reprieve as electioneering is banned until the vote.

People who spoke to AFP in Rome on Saturday said they were unsure the day before the election as the latest polls show that the Brothers of Italy party is likely to win and form a government.

“I am worried by the fact that the polls have the right-wing as the winner, especially Giorgia Meloni,” said Maria Tasca, a 27-year-old student originally from Sicily.

‘No magic solution’

“From what she has said on women’s rights, on young people’s rights, on rights in general, I see things going backwards by at least 50 years,” Tasca added.

“The problems are worldwide, there’s no magic solution. But sometimes you have to change,” said a 75-year-old shop owner, who gave his name only as Dante.

Meloni, 45, has worked hard over the past few weeks to reassure skittish investors and an anxious Brussels that her party’s historic ties to supporters of dictator Benito Mussolini are a thing of the past.

She has softened her tone and posted a video of herself on TikTok making traditional pastries from the Puglia region.

But she channelled warrior Aragorn from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings on Thursday at the closing rally for the right-wing coalition, which unites her Brothers of Italy with Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League party and billionaire Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.

READ ALSO: Political cheat sheet: Understanding Italy’s League

The self-described “Christian mother” segued smoothly from the fantasy king to blaming the left for the country’s “drug dealers, thieves, rapists and mafia”, adding: “This Italy ends on Sunday”.

Berlusconi, 85, was at her side.

The media mogul — who is on trial accused of bribing starlets not to testify about his allegedly erotic parties — has campaigned mainly online, wooing grandmothers and housewives with promises of stay-at-home salaries.

TikTok jokes

He has also chased the youth vote with some TikTok jokes — including one about not trying to steal their girlfriends.

The race has seen the parties try to win over voters with ideas such as sending goods from northern to southern Italy via tube and fighting climate change with cannabis.

READ ALSO: Political cheat sheet: Understanding Italy’s Five Star Movement

Former interior minister Salvini, 49, campaigned under the slogan “Credo” (I believe), earning him a rebuke from the Catholic Church.

Fearful of losing a significant chunk of his supporters to Meloni, Salvini has tried to stand out by calling for an end to sanctions against Russia and railing against Brussels.

But the end of his campaign was overshadowed by a video clip of him describing a blind League candidate on Thursday as “an eye for Italians”.

The centre-left’s Enrico Letta, head of the Democratic Party (PD), rocked up to his final rally in an electric van — reminding voters of his earlier efforts to promote ecologically friendly transport, when his electric campaign
bus ran out of battery.

His main rival for votes on the left, Giuseppe Conte, head of the populist Five Star Movement, seemed to have more staying power.

He was photographed so often standing head and shoulders above the crowd amid a throng of supporters that the media dubbed him the “travelling Madonna”.

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