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POLITICS

Berlusconi criticizes Italians for ‘voting badly’ as latest effort to break political deadlock fails

Italy appears to be no closer to forming a government after two days of informal consultations between the parties and the speaker of the Senate.

Berlusconi criticizes Italians for 'voting badly' as latest effort to break political deadlock fails
Silvio Berlusconi, leader of Forza Italia, speaks to press outside the Quirinale Palace. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Senate speaker Elisabetta Casellati reported the results of her talks on Friday afternoon after being given an “exploratory mandate” to try to end the political deadlock. Inconclusive elections in March have left the country without a government, and the parties that scooped the highest number of votes have been unable to agree on much.

According to Casellati, however, her talks identified “starting points for political reflection” – though she admitted there was “diversity of opinion” among the parties. Both the Five Star Movement (M5S) and a rightwing coalition performed well in the March vote but failed to achieve a majority or to agree to a grand coalition, while the Democratic Party (PD), which led the last administration, has said it will go into opposition rather than join any coalition.

Silvio Berlusconi, who leads the Forza Italia (FI) party, said on Friday he was “disgusted” by the direction the talks were taking.

“The Italians have voted very badly,” said the former media magnate, whose party was relegated to being the junior ally in the coalition he put together after Matteo Salvini's League won more votes.

Berlusconi's potential role in any government has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks in talks, with the M5S refusing to govern with him and the League unwilling to drop its coalition partner. For his part, the FI leader has also been openly hostile to the M5S.

He did say he would have considered hiring M5S politicians at Mediaset, his broadcasting empire, but only for manual labour. “They're the party of the unemployed. In Mediaset they'd be cleaning the toilets,” he commented, adding that he would prefer to join a coalition with the PD.

Salvini said Berlusconi's comments were “not respectful towards Italians” and that he was “wrong” about the PD, with whom the League has refused to govern.

Despite the fact that no progress has been made, each of the parties has insisted on its keenness to form a government as soon as possible, if only the other parties would stop dragging their feet.

Both Salvini and M5S spokesperson Danilo Toninelli said their parties wanted to avoid a technical government, which could be an option if no grand coalition can be formed.

Italy has now been without a government for 47 days, though there is still some way to go before it reaches the record of 1992, when the country waited 82 days for a new administration.

Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, said on Friday he would take two days to reflect on Casellati's report before taking any decisions.

POLITICS

Italy’s government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

Italy's new government issued a decree on Thursday to continue sending weapons to Ukraine through 2023, continuing the previous administration's policy of support to Kyiv.

Italy's government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

The decree extends to December 31, 2023 an existing authorisation for “the transfer of military means, materials and equipment to the government authorities of Ukraine,” according to a government statement.

Since taking office in October, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly voiced her support for Kyiv while underlying the importance of the Atlantic alliance.

In her first speech to parliament, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party pledged to “continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine.”

Her predecessor Mario Draghi was a staunch supporter of Kyiv, but the issue of sending arms to Ukraine split the biggest party in parliament during his coalition government, the Five Star Movement.

That friction led to the early elections that brought Meloni to power.

Parliament now has 60 days to vote the decree into law.

READ ALSO: Outcry in Italy after Berlusconi defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Despite Meloni’s efforts to reassure her Western allies of Italy’s support for the EU’s and NATO’s Ukraine strategy, including sanctions on Russia, the close ties to Russia of her two coalition partners have come under scrutiny.

Both Matteo Salvini of the League party and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who leads Forza Italia, have long enjoyed warm relations with Russia.

In October, an audio tape of Berlusconi was leaked to the media in which the former premier described how he had received a birthday present of vodka from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the tape, he also expressed concerns about sending weapons and cash to Kyiv and appeared to blame the war on Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Berlusconi later issued a statement saying his personal position on Ukraine “does not deviate” from that of Italy and the EU.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Salvini, too, has come under fire for his relations with Moscow, including a report that he dined with Russia’s ambassador to Rome just days after that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Salvini, who has criticised EU sanctions as ineffective, has long admired Putin, even wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Russian leader’s face.

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