Debt and Russian sanctions: Why cracks are emerging in Italy’s far-right alliance

Italy's rightwing parties are expected to win upcoming elections by a landslide, but their strong alliance is now threatened by deepening disagreements over Russia and the budget deficit.

Debt and Russian sanctions: Why cracks are emerging in Italy's far-right alliance
League party leader Matteo Salvini and Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni are standing for election as part of a right-wing alliance. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

With just weeks to go until Italy’s general elections on Sunday, September 25th, splits are emerging between the two hard-right parties tipped to win power.

Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy is leading opinion polls, putting her on course to become prime minister as part of a coalition with Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigrant League.

The pair are campaigning on a shared populist, eurosceptic, nationalist agenda, but in recent days have been increasingly at odds on how to respond to the energy crisis gripping Europe.

Salvini has called for more help for companies and workers facing soaring electricity and gas bills this winter, either at a European or Italian level – even if it means borrowing more.

“I prefer to put 30 billion in debt on the table today, than put 100 (billion) in two months time to pay for a million unemployed or redundant people,” he told Radio Capital on Tuesday.

He noted this put him at odds with outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi and also Meloni, who has sought to reassure international investors that the eurozone’s third largest economy will be safe in her hands.


“Going into further debt is the last resort, because Italy is already indebted out of control,” Meloni said last week.

Salvini, who in the past was open in his admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been critical of Western sanctions against Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, saying they are not working.

He condemned Russia’s actions, but said on Tuesday: “The sanctions have been in operation for seven months, and we are on our knees, not Putin – and the war continues.”

“Let’s go ahead with sanctions, yes, but Europe must protect entrepreneurs, workers, traders,” he said, noting how the EU had mobilised billions of euros for countries — including Italy — hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Meloni has strongly supported Ukraine and sanctions against Russia and on Sunday emphasised the importance of holding the line.

“A serious nation that wants to defend its interests must take a credible position,” she said.

Salvini’s League party won almost 18 percent of the vote in 2018 elections that brought him to power. But he has been losing support to Meloni for months, polling at just over half her tally of around 24 percent.

FdI continues to enjoy the largest share of the vote, according to opinion polls. The right-wing coalition, along with Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, is expected to take some 46 percent at election overall.

While the centre-left Democratic Party is just behind FdI in the polls, it has not formed the alliances with other large parties needed to take a large enough share of the vote to challenge the right-wing coalition.

Asked by Radio Capital if the two parties would argue over Russia and other issues once in government, Salvini said: “absolutely not, we have a busy five years ahead. We have different origins and cultures, but it is a commitment.”

“I can’t wait for the 25th of September, from when for five years we will be judged by our work,” he added.

Member comments

  1. Why is it that any party contesting the WEF backed ‘prescribed reality’ and the muffled and paid-for mainstream media is automatically labelled ‘hard-right’ or now ‘post-fascist’? The Local would do well to understand that it is not part of the MSM and should take a more impartial approach.

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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.