SHARE
COPY LINK

POLITICS

Berlusconi’s right-wing coalition ahead, but short of majority in Italian election: exit polls

Media mogul Silvio Berlusconi's right-wing coalition was set to win the most votes but may fall short of a majority in Italy's election on Sunday, with far-right and populist parties surging ahead, according to exit polls.

Berlusconi's right-wing coalition ahead, but short of majority in Italian election: exit polls
The party leaders in Italy's rightwing coalition. Photo: Livio Anticoli/AFP

Berlusconi's grouping was expected to win between 31 and 41 percent of the vote, followed by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement with 29-32 percent, according to an exit poll by Rai public television.

The ruling centre-left Democratic Party, which struggled to get across its message of steady economic handling, was left in third place, according to the exit polls.

AS IT HAPPENED: The Local's live blog of the Italian electionLIVE: Italy heading towards a hung parliament, exit polls suggest
Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Anger at the hundreds of thousands of migrant arrivals in Italy in recent years fired up a campaign, along with frustration about Italy's slow economic recovery.

The boost for far-right and populist parties has drawn comparisons to Britain's vote to leave the European Union and the rise of US President Donald Trump.

“The European Union is going to have a bad night,” Marine Le Pen, leader of France's National Front, tweeted.

The Five Star Movement and the far-right League party, a member of Berlusconi's coalition, are both eurosceptic.

“Everyone is going to have to come and speak to us,” Alessandro Di Battista, a leading member of the Five Star Movement, told reporters at the group's Rome rally.

'Pure populism'

The League, whose leader Matteo Salvini has been criticized for his Islamophobic rhetoric, was polling neck-and-neck with Berlusconi's Forza Italia (Go Italy). One prediction said the League may even come first which would change the balance of power in the coalition.

Berlusconi, a flamboyant three-time former prime minister, cannot hold elected office because of a fraud conviction but has put forward European Parliament President Antonio Tajani as his prime ministerial nominee. Salvini has said he should receive the prime ministerial nomination if his party comes in front — a prospect that has spooked investors and European capitals.

READ ALSO: The Local's complete guide to the Italian election

The campaign was a gloomy one marred by clashes between far-right and anti-fascist activists, as well as a racist shooting spree by an extreme right sympathiser last month. The right has promised to deport 600,000 “illegal” migrants — a prospect judged unfeasible by its rivals.

Former White House adviser Steve Bannon — the man who helped Trump ride a populist wave to power — characterised the election as “pure populism”.

“The Italian people have gone farther, in a shorter period of time, than the British did for Brexit and the Americans did for Trump,” Bannon, who was visiting Italy for the election, told the New York Times.

Bannon called a possible post-election deal between the Five Star Movement and the League “the ultimate dream”.

17 memorable quotes from Italy's rollercoaster election campaign

'Berlusconi, you have expired'

If no grouping wins an overall majority, analysts say one scenario could be a grand coalition between the ruling centre-left Democratic Party and Berlusconi's Forza Italia — a prospect that would reassure investors.

Berlusconi, who won his first election in 1994, has returned to the limelight at the age of 81 despite a career overshadowed by sex scandals and legal woes.

The billionaire was ambushed as he cast his vote in Milan by a topless woman from the Femen activist group who had “Berlusconi, you have expired” scrawled across her torso.

In the event of a stalemate, President Sergio Mattarella will have the key role of choosing a prime ministerial nominee who could command a majority in parliament but negotiations could take weeks or even months.

“The verdict in Italy is always the same: the country is in constant instability. Being ungovernable has become endemic,” said Claudio Tito, columnist for La Repubblica.

The Five Star Movement, which was founded in 2009 by a web entrepreneur and a former comedian, has tapped into disillusionment with traditional parties.

“I voted for the right and Berlusconi in the past… but this time I'm voting Five Star Movement to be against the parties that have always stolen,” said 24-year-old pastry chef Francesco Tagliavini at a polling station in Rome's Tor Marancia neighbourhood.

“We hope something will change because until now things have been very bad,” said Enzo Gallo, an elderly shopper at a street market in Milan.

“The middle class no longer exists, the poor are becoming poorer, the rich are becoming richer and there is no social justice,” he told AFP.

ANALYSIS: What can we expect after the election, and how did we get here?


Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

By Dario Thuburn

POLITICS

Analysis: Could Bolsonaro get Italian citizenship to avoid extradition?

Brazil’s former president may soon face legal charges after last week’s attempted coup. Here’s why he’s considering becoming an Italian citizen to escape extradition from the US.

Analysis: Could Bolsonaro get Italian citizenship to avoid extradition?

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has figured heavily in international news lately after hundreds of his supporters stormed government buildings in the capital Brasilia on Sunday, January 8th, in what has now been widely recognised as a failed coup. 

And though there is currently no evidence that Bolsonaro directly ordered Sunday’s insurrection, Brazilian media reports suggest the former president may, in the words of Brazilian Senator Renan Calheiros, have to “answer for his crimes and be interrogated on the terrorist acts he always incited”.

It is precisely the prospect of legal prosecution that, in a turn of events very few would have been able to anticipate, might tie Bolsonaro’s fate to Italy.

Brazilian news media Istoè and O globo both recently reported that Bolsonaro, who has Italian origins, is currently planning on formally requesting Italian citizenship – a process which two of his five sons, Flavio and Eduardo, started back in 2020.

But why would becoming an Italian citizen allow Bolsonaro to evade prosecution in Brazil?

Bolsonaro is currently in Florida, USA, which he entered on December 30th, two days before his successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was sworn in as the new Brazilian head of state. 

Aftermath of failed coup in Brasilia, Brazil

Hundreds of Bolsonaro supporters stormed Brasilia, Brazil’s capital, on Sunday, January 8th. Photo by Carl DE SOUZA / AFP

But his position in the US is shaky, to say the least. A single criminal charge – Bolsonaro is already under investigation in at least four pre-coup criminal probes – and sufficient evidence to show probable cause would be enough for the States to accept Brazil’s extradition request. 

Conversely, as an Italian citizen residing in Italy, Bolsonaro would be most likely shielded from extradition as the current agreements between Rome and Brasilia exclude extradition for crimes of political nature and the Italian Constitution (article 26) bans the “extradition of [an Italian] citizen unless international conventions command so”.

So, it seems Bolsonaro would effectively be able to evade prosecution by acquiring Italian citizenship. But should he ultimately choose to request citizenship, how likely is it that he would be successful?

While there’s no way to predict what the final outcome would be, he’d have good chances, at least in theory.

Italy is far more lenient than other countries when it comes to allowing people to claim citizenship via ancestry (also known as ‘right of blood’ or jure sanguinis).

In fact, there are no limits on how far back up the line of descent the applicant’s Italian ancestor is located as long as the Italian national in question was alive on or after March 17th 1861, when the Kingdom of Italy was officially born. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: Will my children get an Italian passport if born in Italy?

Bolsonaro’s paternal great-grandfather, Vittorio Bolzonaro, moved to Brazil from Anguillara Veneta, Veneto in the late 1880s or early 1890s at the very latest.

Other than that, the issue of Italian citizenship is dependent on one remaining condition, namely that no Italian national along the line of descent formally renounced their Italian citizenship prior to the birth of their descendant. 

Italy's foreign minister Antonio Tajani

Italy’s foreign minister Antonio Tajani has recently confirmed that no request for Italian citizenship has been made yet by Bolsonaro. Photo by Daniel MIHAILESCU / AFP

There’s no way to know whether this requirement is actually met in Bolsonaro’s case, though, if it were, his path to acquiring Italian citizenship would be pretty clear. 

As with all things Italian, the process of getting an Italian citizenship application approved is usually very lengthy (taking over three years in most cases). However, there is a ‘fast-track’ option which, while requiring the applicant to relocate to Italy and become a legal resident, cuts overall processing times to around one year. 

So, should Bolsonaro ultimately go for the fast-track route – and provided that he applied immediately and all his documents (including birth, death and marriage certificates of all his relevant ancestors) were in order – the earliest he could become an Italian citizen would be at some point in 2024. 

READ ALSO: What’s the difference between Italian residency and citizenship?

This is of course all purely hypothetical at present, especially as Italy’s foreign minister Antonio Tajani confirmed on Wednesday that Bolsonaro hasn’t (yet) submitted a request for Italian citizenship. 

But the mere prospect of Brazil’s former president applying for citizenship has caused a stir within the Italian political landscape – several left-wing forces have already asked that the request be immediately rejected should it ever come through.

Brazil's former president Jair Bolsonaro in Italy

Bolsonaro already has honorary Italian citizenship, which was granted by the small town of Anguillara Veneta in 2021. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

Some Italian social media users also highlighted the fact that it’s relatively difficult for children born in Italy to foreign parents to obtain Italian citizenship.

“Before (possibly) giving Italian citizenship to the Bolsonaro family you must give it to all children born and living in Italy who wish to be Italian citizens,” said one.

The former president already has honorary Italian citizenship, granted by Anguillara Veneta, the small town Bolsonaro’s great-grandfather originally emigrated from. However, the town’s mayor is now under increasing pressure to revoke it.

Making Bolsonaro an honorary citizen was a “grave error then” but failing to revoke the award after Sunday’s events would be nothing short of “incomprehensible”, stated Veneto regional councillors Vanessa Camani and Andrea Zanoni, both with the Democratic Party.

As for the Italian government, PM Giorgia Meloni took to Twitter on Sunday to condemn the insurrection in Brasilia. However, neither she nor any other member of her cabinet have so far taken a stance on Bolsonaro’s contentious citizenship issue.

Also, at the time of writing, no member of the League, which largely supported Bolsonaro during his tenure as president and praised him as the “pride of Veneto” in October 2018, has spoken out on the topic.

Whether it’s just a bad bout of forgetfulness or deliberate reticence, the silence is deafening.

SHOW COMMENTS