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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Italy’s centre-left says election pact will stop right-wing landslide

Italy's centre-left Democratic Party teamed up with a small centrist group on Tuesday in a bid to stop the hard right winning power at September's election.

Italy's centre-left says election pact will stop right-wing landslide
The logo of the Italian Democratic Party (PD) pictured on the facade of its headquarters in downtown Rome. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

The alliance was seen as boosting the centre-left’s chances of preventing a right-wing triumph in the upcoming early election, set for September 25th, according to news reports on Tuesday,

“It’s now all to play for,” Carlo Calenda told a press conference after his Azione party, which is allied with the small +Europa, sealed the electoral pact with the Democratic Party (PD), the largest party on the centre-left.

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

“We are solid and compact. We will win this election,” he said.

But polls consistently show a hard-right alliance is currently on course for an easy victory, led by the the post-fascist Brothers of Italy, and that the new centre-left group has a lot of ground to make up.

Leaders of the centre-left alliance said it may yet widen to include other parties.

PD leader Enrico Letta told a press conference on Tuesday that the alliance made the election an open race.

“We believe it is unthinkable that our country, after the government of [Mario] Draghi, will be led by a rightist government,” Letta said.

Democratic Party (PD) leader Enrico Letta (L) walks past Brothers of Italy (FdI) party leader Giorgia Meloni in parliament. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / POOL / AFP

The left has been under pressure to produce a winning ticket since the collapse last month of Draghi’s grand coalition, which kicked off a general election campaign quickly dominated by the right.

Brothers of Italy, which has a Christian nationalist and eurosceptic programme, is currently polling at around 24 percent.

Its allies – Forza Italia, led by ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, and Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League – are polling at around seven and 12 percent respectively.

A Swg poll published on Monday, ahead of the new centre-left deal, saw the PD polling at around 23 percent, while Azione and +Europe had a combined score of around six percent.

The PD and Azione vowed to stick to Draghi’s foreign policy in support of Ukraine and to ensure Italy followed through with a series of key reforms necessary to access billions of euros in European Union funds.

“The election will be a choice between an Italy that is one of the great countries of Europe, and an Italy allied with (Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor) Orban and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” they said in a statement.

READ ALSO: Russia denies interfering in Italy’s elections

Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni has flirted politically with Orban while Berlusconi is a long-term friend of Putin’s and Salvini’s ties with Russia have repeatedly come under scrutiny.

The centre-left pact came a day after Luigi Di Maio, the former head of the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), unveiled a new centre-left party called Civil Commitment, which signalled it was open to joining forces with left or centre-left parties.

M5S was the largest party in parliament before the latest political crisis but is now polling at 10 percent. It is expected to run alone and hopes to win the protest vote.

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POLITICS

Italian PM Meloni refuses to back down on reporter ‘defamation’ trial

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Tuesday she will not withdraw her defamation suit against anti-mafia reporter Roberto Saviano, despite growing criticism that her position of power might skew the trial in her favour.

Italian PM Meloni refuses to back down on reporter 'defamation' trial

On Tuesday, the hard-right leader told Italian daily Corriere della Sera that she was confident the case would be treated with the necessary “impartiality”.

Meloni sued anti-mafia reporter Saviano for alleged defamation after he called her a “bastard” in a 2020 televised outburst over her attitude towards vulnerable migrants.

Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party was in opposition at the time, but took office last month after an electoral campaign that promised to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa.

Press freedom watchdogs and supporters of Saviano have called for the trial, which opened earlier in November, to be scrapped.

READ ALSO: Anti-mafia reporter on trial for ‘defaming’ Italy’s far-right PM

“I don’t understand the request to withdraw the complaint on the pretext that I am now prime minister,” Meloni said.

“I believe that all this will be treated with impartiality, considering the separation of powers.”

She also added: “I am simply asking the court where the line is between the legitimate right to criticise, gratuitous insult and defamation.”

Saviano, best known for his international mafia bestseller “Gomorrah”, faces up to three years in prison if convicted.

The case dates back to December 2020 when Saviano was asked on a political TV chat show for a comment on the death of a six-month-old baby from Guinea in a shipwreck.

On the occasion, he railed at Meloni, who in 2019 had said that charity vessels which rescue migrants “should be sunk”.

Saviano is not the only journalist Meloni is taking to trial. One of the country’s best-known investigative reporters, Emiliano Fittipaldi, said last week the prime minister had sued him for defamation.

READ ALSO: Italian PM Meloni takes another investigative reporter to court

That trial is set to start in 2024.

Watchdogs say such trials are symbolic of a culture in Italy in which public figures intimidate reporters with repeated lawsuits, threatening the erosion of a free press.

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