Elections will be Italy’s ‘Brexit’ moment, warns PD leader

Italy's election gives voters a choice between such radically different ideas of the country and its place in Europe that it compares to Brexit, the centre-left's leader said on Monday.

Elections will be Italy's 'Brexit' moment, warns PD leader
Leader of Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy) Giorgia Meloni speaks in front of a photo of PD (Partito Democratico) leader Enrico Letta. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Centre-left Democratic Party (PD) leader Enrico Letta faced Giorgia Meloni, head of the far-right Brothers of Italy, for the only live debate between the two leaders before the September 25 vote.

“This is a crossroads, a sort of referendum, a bit like in Great Britain when they had to choose between Brexit and staying in the EU,” Letta said, calling for “more Europe, not less”.

EXPLAINED: Five key points from the Meloni vs Letta debate

Brussels “must deal with the big issues”, Meloni said in the debate, streamed by the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

But her right-wing coalition – which includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigrant League and Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative Forza Italia party – also believes countries must be able to protect their own interests, she said.

While the PD’s centre-left coalition is pro-Europe, the parties in the right-wing alliance are known for nativist, Eurosceptic views and, in the case of Salvini and Berlusconi, friendly relations with Russia.

Meloni has distanced herself from statements made by Salvini recently in which he criticised EU sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

READ ALSO: Who is Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s likely next prime minister?

Giorgia Meloni, leader of far-right Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) party, is expected to become Italy’s next prime minister. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Meloni, who has wooed Italians with her motto of “God, country and family”, won the debate, according to the left-leaning Domani daily.

“Letta lost, unequivocally. He spent the whole debate, just as in the last few weeks, on fighting an imaginary Giorgia Meloni. The one of past excesses… not the institutional version of today”, it said.

Brothers of Italy is widely expected to be the biggest winner in the election, with Meloni set to become the country’s next prime minister.

The party is polling at 24 percent, with support soaring in recent years – despite it being a political descendant of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), formed by supporters of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini after World War II.

EXPLAINED: Five ways Italy’s 2022 elections will be different

The right-wing coalition is expected to take around 46-48 percent of the vote, according to polls.

The PD is expected to pocket 21 percent of the vote, and Letta said his is the only party which can prevent Italy from ending up with a government like that led by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

In a startling move, Letta admitted defeat last week – but urged undecided voters to choose his party anyway, or risk handing the right a landslide victory and the absolute majority in parliament that would allow it to change the constitution.

Letta – whose party is polling just behind Brothers of Italy, but which has failed to pull together an alliance strong enough to challenge the right – said his rivals posed a threat to immigrants’ rights, to women’s rights, and to LGBT rights.

Meloni said religious identity was fundamental, and said gay couples must not be allowed to adopt – but claimed she had no plans to cut access to abortion.

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

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TIMELINE: What happens next after Italy’s historic elections?

A hard-right coalition led by Giorgia Meloni is set to take power in Italy after Sunday's historic elections. But it might be a while before Meloni and her government actually get to work.

TIMELINE: What happens next after Italy's historic elections?

A coalition led by far-right leader Giorgia Meloni is on course to win a parliamentary majority in Italian elections —
but forming a government can be a lengthy business.

In the past, it has taken anything between four and 12 weeks for a new administration to take office.

Here is what will happen next in Italy if previous elections are anything to go by.

Official results 

While exit polls were published after voting ended at 11 pm on Sunday night  and projections followed early on Monday morning
the interior ministry will not issue official results until during the day on Monday. This will depend on the number of votes to be counted but turnout appeared to be down on the 2018 vote.

Parliament meets

The Italian constitution requires that newly elected members of the two houses of parliament, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, meet no later than 20 days after elections.

This would put their first gathering no later than October 15.

At this time, each chamber must elect a president and only then can the process of nominating members of a government begin.

President leads negotiations

President Sergio Mattarella will begin consultations on who should lead the new government with the Senate and Chamber presidents, the leaders of the main parties and eventually the parliamentary groups.

If the result of the election is clear, these consultations will be fairly short, perhaps two days, but could last up to a week.

Then Mattarella, elected by parliament to a second seven-year term as head of state earlier this year, will nominate a prime minister.

This person will accept the mandate to form a new government “with reservations” and begin talks with allies on ministerial appointments and a programme.

At the end of these discussions, if all goes well, the prospective premier will return to Mattarella and “lift their reservations”.

Finally a government

The new government is announced and sworn in before the president the same day or the next. The prime minister and their ministers then go to the seat of the executive, Palazzo Chigi, for the handover of power.

Silvio Berlusconi only needed 24 days in 2008 to take office, while it took 89 for Giuseppe Conte in 2018.