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POLITICS

Italy’s voters give their verdict on new government programme

In a piazza in the centre of Milan, supporters of Italy's far-right League party came on Sunday to cast their vote on the new government programme agreed by their party and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S).

Italy's voters give their verdict on new government programme
The League's supporters in Milan. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The coalition contract, published Friday by the two political forces, aims to end over two months of political deadlock after inconclusive elections in March. Both parties have presented the contract to their voters for a symbolic, non-binding vote. 

After publishing the deal on their direct democracy platform, M5S announced on Friday that it had been approved by 94 percent of the nearly 45,000 who voted, while the figure for the 215,000 League supporters who voted on Saturday and Sunday was 91 percent.

“It's not ideal to govern with the Five Star Movement as we don't have a lot in common,” said Giorgio Corti as he approached the voting gazebo covered with the blue League flags and posters of their nationalist leader Matteo Salvini.

The mechanic said he didn't agree with the M5S flagship policy of a basic universal income for Italy's poorest but that he would vote in favour of the contract all the same. “I don't think money should be given to people who don't want to work, but I'll vote in favour of the contract rather than have a government of technocrats who no one elected,” he said.

League voter Paolo Bertini was also voting in favour but only because “we have to have a government”.

The engineer said he was worried about the feasibility of the coalition's ambitious economic policies. “I'm concerned about the pension reform without offering a concrete alternative… There is a budget problem, we risk massively increasing our country's debt,” he added, saying that he did not believe the coalition would go the distance and would be only “transitory”.

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One of the M5S's stands in Milan. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

'Listened to the people'

Across the other side of town many M5S voters said they felt positive about it, although some said they had concerns.

M5S voter Sergio Gau, a business consultant, said that rather than policy differences with the League, which wants to rein in immigration, he was more worried about the “xenophobic nature” of some within the party. He said League leader Salvini's views were stronger than his own but “in some way it is right for our country to take measures to control immigration, we can't be the point of entry for everyone coming over”.

Postal worker and Five Star voter Antonio Renna also voiced his concerns on the topic. “I would have preferred something less tough on immigration because I think the way to deal with the situation is more through integration, but I think even on this topic the parties can come to an agreement” he said.

Despite their differences Renna said both the League and Five Star had “listened to the people in Italy” and can “work will together on a lot of points.”

“Finally they are trying to make a government led by what the people need,” he said. 

READ ALSO: League and M5S say they have agreed on a nominee for prime minister

By Lucy Adler

POLITICS

Italian rivals pitch abroad in trilingual vote videos

Days after Italy's far-right leader made a multilingual appeal to foreign commentators to take her seriously, her main rival in September elections issued his own tit-for-tat video Saturday condemning her record.

Italian rivals pitch abroad in trilingual vote videos

Former prime minister Enrico Letta, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, declared his pro-European credentials in a video in English, French and Spanish, while deriding the euroscepticism of Italy’s right-wing parties.

It echoes the trilingual video published this week by Giorgia Meloni, tipped to take power in the eurozone’s third largest economy next month, in which she sought to distance her Brothers of Italy party from its post-fascist roots.

“We will keep fighting to convince Italians to vote for us and not for them, to vote for an Italy that will be in the heart of Europe,” Letta said in English.

His party and Meloni’s are neck-and-neck in opinion polls ahead of September 25 elections, both with around 23 percent of support.

But Italy’s political system favours coalitions, and while Meloni is part of an alliance with ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and anti-immigration leader Matteo Salvini, Letta has struggled to unite a fractured centre-left.

Speaking in French perfected in six years as a dean at Sciences Po university in Paris, Letta emphasised European solidarity, from which Italy is currently benefiting to the tune of almost 200 billion euros ($205 billion) in
post-pandemic recovery funds.

“We need a strong Europe, we need a Europe of health, a Europe of solidarity. And we can only do that if there is no nationalism inside European countries,” he said.

He condemned the veto that he said right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor “Orban — friends and allies of the Italian right — is using every time he can (to) harm Europe”.

In Spanish, Letta highlighted Meloni’s ties with Spain’s far-right party Vox, at whose rally she spoke earlier this summer, railing at the top of her voice against “LGBT lobbies”, Islamist violence, EU bureaucracy and mass
immigration.

In English, he condemned the economic legacy of Berlusconi, a three-time premier who left office in 2011 as Italy was on the brink of economic meltdown, but still leads his Forza Italia party.

Letta’s programme includes a focus on green issues — he intends to tour Italy in an electric-powered bus — and young people, but he has made beating Meloni a key plank of his campaign.

Meloni insisted in her video that fascism was in the past, a claim greeted with scepticism given her party still uses the logo of a flame used by the Italian Social Movement set up by supporters of fascist leader Benito Mussolini.

In a joint manifesto published this week, Meloni, Berlusconi and Salvini committed themselves to the EU but called for changes to its budgetary rules — and raised the prospect of renegotiating the pandemic recovery plan.

Elections were triggered by the collapse of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government last month, and are occurring against a backdrop of soaring inflation, a potential winter energy crisis and global uncertainty sparked by
the Ukraine war.

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