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Italian elections: The main campaign pledges made by Italy’s political parties

With Italy's general election coming up on September 25th, here's a look at the campaign pledges the major parties have made.

A photo taken on August 15, 2022 in Turin shows a campaign poster of the League party leader Matteo Salvini for the upcoming September general elections.
A photo taken on August 15, 2022 in Turin shows a campaign poster of the League party leader Matteo Salvini for the upcoming September general elections. Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

As Italy gears up for an early autumn election, its political parties have had no time to waste in forming alliances and putting out their election manifestos.

While dozens of parties have put their names in the running, just a few stand any real chance of success.

Leading in the polls is the ‘centre-right’, or centrodestra, a three-party coalition led by the hard-right Brothers of Italy, along with the populist League, led by Matteo Salvini, and Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative Forza Italia. The centre-right is currently polling at around 45 percent, and is expected to win the election outright.

The centre-left, led by the Democratic Party (PD), is expected to take around 32-34 percent of the vote.

The populist anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), running alone, is expected to take around ten percent of the vote.

READ ALSO: Why does Italy have so many political parties?

Finally, an alliance between the centrist party Azione and Matteo Renzi’s Italia Viva, referred to as the ‘third pole’, is polling at five percent.

Here are some of the main election promises each of these groups has made so far.

The ‘centre-right’ (centro-destra)

Central to the platform of the centrodesta is a promise to reduce taxes.

While the group’s manifesto is short on specifics, members of the bloc have said they would introduce a universal flat tax of anywhere between 15 percent (Lega’s proposal) and 23 percent (FI’s), effectively extending Italy’s regime forfettario tax scheme for freelancers to all employees. They’ve also proposed raising the salary cap for freelancers on the tax regime from €65,000 to €100,000.

Another vote-winning strategy is a pledge to lower or scrap VAT for basic necessities. Since late July, posters bearing Salvini’s face have appeared all over the country promising to eliminate VAT for bread, pasta, milk, fruit and vegetables.

The coalition has additionally pledged to ditch the reddito di cittadinanza, an unemployment benefit introduced by the M5S in 2019, and replace it with a more efficient alternative – though it’s currently unclear what form that would take.

As you might expect from a right-wing bloc, the group is taking a hard line on immigration and security. Proposals include creating offshore reception centres or ‘hot spots’ to process asylum applications outside the EU, and strengthening ‘Operation Safe Streets’ (Operazione Strade Sicure), an initiative introduced by Berlusconi in 2008 under which Italian military personnel are deployed to guard sites of historic and strategic importance and to maintain public order.

On energy, the right have said they are in favour of using ‘clean and safe’ nuclear energy, developing biogas, wind and solar energy sources, and resuming offshore gas exploration and extraction.

All three parties have said they are in favour of continuing to buy gas from Russia (the previous government had planned to wean Italy off Russian gas by 2025).

READ ALSO: An introductory guide to the Italian political system

A major institutional reform proposed by the centrodestra – and promoted by Berlusconi in particular – would change Italy’s system of governance from that of a parliamentary republic to a French-style presidential system in which citizens vote directly for a president who is both the head of state and head of government on a two-term basis.

Currently, Italy’s president is elected by members of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate on a seven-year cycle, and performs a largely (but not exclusively) ceremonial role.

The Democratic Party (Partito Democratico)

The Democratic Party (PD) are part of a centre-left coalition that includes a large number of smaller parties – but as things stand, they currently have no unified platform, so the following policies are PD’s alone.

Like the centrodestra, PD also proposes tax breaks, but of a more modest nature. Under a PD-led government, each individual would receive the equivalent of one month’s pay in tax relief via a reduction in Inps (social security) contributions. Employers would also receive fiscal incentives to award permanent contracts to under-35s.

The party says it will raise teachers’ salaries to bring them in line with the European average over the next five years; introduce a minimum wage; amend the reddito di cittadinanza such that large families are no longer penalised; and award a lump sum of €10,000 to young people from households under a certain income threshold when they turn 18.

PD also proposes introducing benefits for people in low-paid jobs who are struggling to get by, and says it will build 500,000 social housing units in the next ten years. It plans to introduce the Zan bill, which would make would make discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity illegal.

On energy, the party is anti-nuclear but in favour of liquified natural gas (LNG) plants, highlighting that it considers the latter to be a temporary bridging solution while Italy completes its ‘ecological transition’ to clean energy. Without going into detail, its manifesto proposes the creation of a ‘National Anti-Nimby Compensation Fund’ that would presumably be used to incentivise certain parts of the country to allow the construction of renewable energy plants. 

PD’s manifesto is pro-immigration, proposing a new immigration law that would make it easier to legally relocate to Italy for work. It also proposes the introduction of the Ius Scholae, which would allow children who arrived in Italy under the age of 12 and have completed five years of schooling in the country to apply for citizenship.

On an institutional level, the left wants to put some mechanisms in place that would help prevent Italy’s governments from collapsing on a continual basis, starting with the sfiducia costruttiva (‘constructive vote of no confidence’) rule. Already in place Spain and Germany, the system prevents parliament from holding a vote of no confidence in the government unless they’ve already identified a new executive that can take its place.

The Five Star Movement (Movimento Cinque Stelle)

As the reddito di cittadinanza was M5S’s brainchild, the party is predictably in favour of maintaining the unemployment benefit – though its leaders have said they would introduce safeguards to combat fraud.

The group also wants to implement a national minimum wage of €9 per hour, abolish unpaid internships, and secure wage parity for women; as well as proposing tax cuts for businesses.

Like the centrodestra, M5S also proposes abolishing VAT on basic foodstuffs, claiming it was their idea in the first place.

M5S, which has long had a focus on environmental concerns, is opposed to both nuclear energy and LNG plants, instead saying it will ‘debureaucratise’ the construction of renewable energy plants and introduce a superbonus for energy companies aimed at promoting renewable energy.

Many of M5S’s other policies are identical to those of PD’s, including the five-year salary raise for teachers and the implementation of the Zan Bill, Ius Scholae, and the sfiducia costruttiva mechanism.

You might wonder why M5S and PD don’t band together given the similarity of their platforms: the answer is that the two groups are currently at loggerheads. M5S is the party responsible for pulling the trigger on Mario Draghi’s ‘unity’ coalition government in July, a move that catapulted Italy into early elections and was denounced by most of the centre-left as wildly irresponsible.

Pundits say M5S, which shot to power on an anti-establishment platform in 2018 and has been sliding in the polls ever since, was attempting to claw back voter support by refusing to pass a major aid bill that included a provision to build a massive waste-to-energy incinerator outside Rome (the party opposed on environmental grounds).

The move backfired when Draghi said he would resign rather than give in to M5S’s demands, prompting the former prime minister to call a confidence vote that he lost and triggering snap elections that the centrodestra are predicted to win comfortably.

The ‘third pole’ (terzo polo)

Currently polling at around five percent, the centrist parties Azione and Italia Viva, making up the so-called third pole or third electoral alliance, aren’t considered major contenders in these elections, but they do have some political influence and could split the vote.

These parties are running with an election manifesto focused on tax reform, “sustainable economic growth”, and equal opportunities.

The coalition has similar policies to PD and M5S on the introduction of a minimum wage and Ius Scholae.

The third pole in fact goes one step further, saying it intends to grant citizenship to all foreign students who have completed their university studies in Italy.

On energy issues, they’re closer to the centrodestra, favouring both nuclear and LNG plants and proposing to reactivate and upgrade existing natural gas plants.

The manifesto stresses the need to push ahead with planned reforms to Italy’s tax and justice systems and to “widen opportunities for all and to radically simplify life for citizens”.

Find all the latest news on Italy’s election race here.

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EXPLAINED: Who’s who in Italy’s election?

As Italians head to the polls today, who are the main candidates in Italy's general election?

EXPLAINED: Who's who in Italy's election?

Three former heads of government and two far-right leaders: here in alphabetical order are the five main candidates in Italy’s general election on Sunday.

Silvio Berlusconi

A three-time prime minister who owns a media empire and Serie A football club, Berlusconi may be 85 but his political ambitions are far from over.

His right-wing Forza Italia party is polling at just eight percent but has joined forces with the far-right Brothers of Italy and anti-immigration League.

Should the alliance win, billionaire Berlusconi has hopes of snapping up the second highest-ranking office in the country: president of the Senate.

A last pitch for power after his bid to become Italy’s president failed in January, the Senate job would be prestigious — and provide judicial immunity, no small matter for a man currently on trial accused of paying starlets to keep quiet about his notorious parties.

Giuseppe Conte

Lawyer Conte had never been elected to office when he was asked to lead Italy’s government following the populist Five Star Movement’s stunning victory in 2018 elections.

Dubbed “Mr Nobody” at first, Conte became seen by many terrified Italians as a safe pair of hands when Italy became the first European country to face the full force of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020.

He eventually secured for Italy the largest slice, around 200 billion euros ($194 billion), of the massive EU post-virus recovery fund.

Plagued by in-fighting, defections and the compromises needed to stay in power, Five Star lost a lot of support. But Conte, 58, remains a popular leader, particularly among the young.

Enrico Letta

Letta, 56, has long been a fixture in Italian politics, becoming the republic’s youngest-ever minister in 1998, at 32, before rising to become premier in 2013 — only to be forced out within a year.

The restrained, bespectacled expert in international law has warned the prospect of a far-right victory threatens democracy and Italy’s place in the post-war order, from the European Union to NATO.

Opinion polls suggest his Democratic Party, which has allied with the ecological far-left, has almost no chance of beating the far-right alliance.

But Letta, who is campaigning on a platform of social justice, the environment and civil rights, is pinning his hopes on the substantial minority of voters who have yet to decide.

Giorgia Meloni

Leader of the post-fascist Brothers of Italy party, Meloni has gone from being a teenage activist who praised Mussolini to the favourite to become Italy’s first woman prime minister.

In 2018 general elections, her party secured just four percent of the vote, but is now polling at more than 24 percent after a nationalist campaign centred around defending Italy’s interests and protecting traditional Catholic family values.

READ ALSO: Political cheat sheet: Understanding the Brothers of Italy

Meloni has benefited from being the only party in opposition for the past 18 months, after choosing not to join outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s national unity government.

Her stance on Europe has softened over the years — she no longer wants Italy to leave the EU’s single currency, and has strongly backed the bloc’s sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine war.

But she says Rome must stand up more for its national interests and has backed Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in his battles with Brussels.

Matteo Salvini

Salvini, 49, is credited with turning his once regional League party into a national force thanks to his eurosceptic, “Italians First” platform.

He has been in and out of government since the last general election in 2018, joining the populist Five Star Movement and later, Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s national unity coalition.

Salvini was just 17 when he joined the then-Northern League. After rising through the ranks, he shifted its attention onto the EU, the euro and the tens of thousands of migrants arriving on Italy’s shores yearly from north Africa.

But he has since been eclipsed by the more polished Giorgia Meloni.

The war in Ukraine has also put him in a tight spot, sparking fresh scrutiny of his ties to Russia, whose president Vladimir Putin he has long admired, even wearing T-shirts bearing Putin’s face.