More local election success for Italy’s right wing in Basilicata

A candidate from Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, supported by the League as part of a right wing bloc, won local elections in Italy's Basilicata region.

More local election success for Italy's right wing in Basilicata
Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi during local election campaigns. Photo: AFP

A right-wing alliance including Matteo Salvini’s far-right League party won local elections in the Basilicata region on Monday, ending 24 years of centre-left power in a poll seen as the last “test” of the League’s popularity before upcoming European elections.

Retired financial police general Vito Bardi, from former premier Silvio Berlusconi's right-wing Forza Italia party, took victory with most votes after Sunday's election in the southern region, which is located on the instep of Italy's “boot”.

READ ALSO:  Italy's former Northern League hunts votes in the south

New regional president Bardi's list won 42 percent of votes, according to provisional results, while the centre-left list took 33 percent.

Forza Italia's candidate was backed by right-wing parties including the anti-immigrant League as part of a list.

“Basilicata is ready for change. I will call Silvio Berlusconi, Matteo Salvini and Giorgia Meloni to have a big party,” Bardi told local media.

A triumphant Salvini tweeted that the League had tripled its vote in a year, after similar local electoral successes for the right-wing bloc in Abruzzo and Sardinia recently.

“And now we’ll change Europe,” he wrote.

The League is in a national government coalition with the populist Five Star Movement, which won nearly 21 percent in Sunday's vote, half what it won in at elections at the national level last year.

Disappointed voters punished M5S after the party failed to fulfil campaign promises to take a hard line against the oil industry in the region, local media reported. Basilicata is home to the Val'd Agri field, which pumps 85,000 barrels per day in the largely agricultural area.

ANALYSIS: Salvini's League is in charge in Italy – these local elections prove it

The League has been riding high in the polls since last year's national elections and is eyeing greater success at the European parliament elections in May.

Political analysts said the League “will be able to deploy its anti-EU rhetoric to full effect and lock-in its recent gains in support” at the European elections.

READ ALSO: How the League's Matteo Salvini played his cards right amid Italy's political chaos 

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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.