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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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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Elections: Italy’s Lampedusa residents ‘left behind’ by migration focus

Italy's politicians are visiting Lampedusa to promise an end to migrant arrivals, but many living on the island say their other concerns go unheard.

Elections: Italy's Lampedusa residents 'left behind' by migration focus

“It’s just words, words,” complains Pino D’Aietti, who like many residents of the tiny island of Lampedusa feels abandoned by Italy’s politicians – except when a surge in migrant arrivals makes the headlines.

The 78-year-old retired plumber is sitting outside a restaurant on the island, where anti-immigration leader Matteo Salvini has spent the past two days as part of his campaign for upcoming elections on September 25th.

Located between Sicily and Tunisia, Lampedusa is known for its beaches and turquoise waters, but also as the landing point for thousands of migrants on boats from north Africa.

On Thursday, Salvini visited the island’s migrant reception centre where as many as 1,500 mostly young men were packed in a facility meant for 350.

But while the League leader makes immigration the cornerstone of his election campaign, there is a sense of disillusionment here; an island of just 6,000 residents out in the middle of the Mediterranean.

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

“We have the most expensive fuel, the (water) purifier hasn’t worked for a long time, there is no hospital,” railed D’Aietti, as tourists in swimsuits browsed shops nearby.

“We are spare parts. When the tourists go, the rubbish we eat! It’s disgusting. And who defends us?”

League Leader Matteo Salvini enjoys a boat ride while visiting the southern Italian Pelagie Island of Lampedusa for his election campaign on August 5th, 2022. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

The lack of healthcare is a recurrent theme.

“We have specialists and that’s it. For anything else we have to go onto the mainland,” said 58-year-old Maria Garito.

Mayor Filippo Mannino admits healthcare is a problem, but tells AFP: “The municipality has limited means, it is up to the state to take charge.”

READ ALSO: Russia denies interfering in Italy’s elections

He has also called for more help from Rome – and the European Union – to help manage the number of migrants, which often becomes unmanageable in the summer months when calmer seas cause a surge in new arrivals.

Not far from the town hall, at the end of an isolated road, is the so-called hotspot, the immigration reception centre.

It is protected by steel gates, but those inside can be seen whiling away the hours in a few shady spots.

The government last week agreed to lay on a special ferry to transfer migrants three times a week to Sicily, and AFP reporters this week saw hundreds boarding a boat.

People at a migrant processing centre on the island of Lampedusa on August 4th, 2022. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Few get to sample the delights of Lampedusa – unlike Salvini, who was pictured in his swimsuit in a pleasure boat off the island on Friday.

Although the locals prefer not to talk about migrants, prejudice is an issue here.

Ibrahima Mbaye, a 43-year-old Senegalese man who arrived here on a French visa three years ago, said “there are good people but half the people are racist, you feel it”.

He has been working as a fisherman, but says it has not been easy – and nor is it for those who arrive illegally.

“They think that Italy is their future, but when they arrive they’re disappointed. They understand that it’s not easy to earn money,” he told AFP.

As for the tourists on holiday on Lampedusa, many are either unaware or willing to turn a blind eye.

“We read about it in the newspapers but we really don’t feel it,” said fifty-something Dino, who has been coming here every summer for ten years.

The two faces of Lampedusa “are two separate things”, he adds.

By AFP’s Clément Melki

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