Russia denies interfering in Italy’s elections

Russia on Friday rejected what it claimed were "bizarre" accusations of interference in Italy's election campaign, after anti-immigrant leader Matteo Salvini's ties with Moscow came under scrutiny.

Russia denies interfering in Italy's elections
The Russian Embassy in Rome. Italian media reports have suggested a meeting took place in May between a Russian diplomat and an aide of anti-immigrant leader Matteo Salvini. Photo: Andreas SOLARO / AFP

“It is bizarre to see the Italian political class and media” resorting to the “trite myth about Moscow’s interference in electoral processes”, said Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

On Thursday Italy’s La Stampa newspaper reported that a diplomat at the Russian embassy met one of Salvini’s aides in late May in Rome to discuss the political landscape.

The meeting took place at a time when Salvini was accused of conducting parallel diplomacy with the Russian embassy, officially to work on a peace plan between Moscow and Kyiv, without the knowledge of the Italian government.

READ ALSO: Italy’s Salvini questioned over Russia ties ahead of election campaign

The League pulled out of the government this month, alongside Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the populist Five Star Movement, causing Mario Draghi to resign as prime minister and triggering September elections.

Zakharova stressed, on the Telegram messaging app, that Russia considers Italy to be “a sovereign country that pursues an independent internal and external policy”.

For this reason, “relations between Russia and Italy have always been characterised by pragmatism, mutual understanding and respect”, the spokeswoman added.

Many politicians demanded an explanation from Salvini after the revelations in La Stampa.

Salvini has long admired President Vladimir Putin, even wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Russian leader’s face.

His links with Moscow have been a regular source of controversy, particularly since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and could hamper the anti-migrant League and its right-wing allies Forza Italia and Fratelli d’Italia in the campaign leading up to the September 25th legislative elections.

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Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

An Italian centre-left election pact broke down on Sunday just days after it was formed, leaving the path to power clear for the hard-right coalition.

Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

The alliance between Italian centre-left parties was left in disarray on Sunday night, potentially meaning a landslide victory for the hard-right coalition at early general elections in September.

The leader of the centrist Azione party withdrew support for the left-wing coalition led by the Democratic Party (PD) just five days after the two joined forces, saying it could not work with left-wingers brought in to boost the alliance.

Carlo Calenda, leader of Azione, withdrew his support on Sunday after PD made another pact with smaller left-wing parties including the radical Sinistra Italiana, and new green party Europa Verde.

“You cannot explain (to voters) that to defend the constitution you make a pact with people you know you will never govern with,” Calenda told newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The news was greeted with jubilation by hard-right League leader Matteo Salvini, who tweeted: “On the left chaos and everyone against everyone!”

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the neofascist Brothers of Italy party (FdI) mocked a “new twist in the soap opera of the centre-left.”

READ ALSO: Italy to choose ‘Europe or nationalism’ at election, says PD leader

Analyists predict the centre-left split could hand the right-wing bloc a landslide victory at the election on September 25th, with Meloni tipped to become Italy’s first female prime minister.

Italy’s political system favours coalitions, and while Meloni has a strong alliance with Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, Letta is struggling to bring together the disparate  progressive parties.

The PD is neck and neck with Brothers of Italy in the latest opinion polls, but even in partnership with Azione, the group most recently polled at 33.6 percent, compared with 46.4 percent for the right.

Political commentators said the only hope PD has now of posing a credible threat to the right-wing alliance would be by partnering with the Five Star Movement.

READ ALSO: Why has Italy’s government collapsed in the middle of summer?

However, Letta has repeatedly said this is out of the question, as he blames M5S for triggering the political crisis that brought down Mario Draghi’s broad coalition government.

“Either PD eats its hat and seeks alliance with M5S to defeat the right-wing coalition, or it’s hard to see how the right can possibly lose the forthcoming election,” Dr Daniele Albertazzi, a politics professor at the University of Surrey in England, tweeted on Sunday.

Early elections were called after Draghi resigned in late July. His government currently remains in place in a caretaker role.