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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Italy’s election campaign rocked by Russian funding claims

Leaders of Italy's right-wing parties denied receiving funding from Moscow after a US intelligence report this week sparked fresh calls for an investigation into Russian influence in Italian politics.

Italy's election campaign rocked by Russian funding claims
Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy) leader Giorgia Meloni speaks in front of an image of her coalition partner, League leader Matteo Salvini during the election campaign. Italian politicians are facing growing calls for an investigation into influence from Moscow. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Brothers of Italy (FdI) leader Giorgia Meloni and League leader Matteo Salvini on Wednesday denied accepting money from Moscow after a US intelligence report sent shockwaves through the campaign for Italy’s September 25th elections.

The US State Department this week released a summary of a recent intelligence review of Russian efforts to influence foreign politics, including funding for unnamed far-right nationalist parties.

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

According to the report, Russia has given over $300 million to foreign parties, officials and politicians in more than 20 countries since 2014.

The leaders of the Italian hard-right parties expected to win the upcoming election were quick to state that they were not funded by Russia.

“All our forms of financing are verifiable,” said Meloni in an interview with Radio 24.

“I’m certain that Brothers of Italy does not take foreign money”.

Salvini told RTL 102.5 he had “never asked for, and never taken” money from Russia.

Salvini, who is known for his admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, has repeatedly denied receiving money from Russia after a recording was leaked in 2019 of one of his aides discussing a secret oil deal in Moscow.

“Investigations have been open for years and nothing has ever been found because there is nothing to find,” he claimed on Wednesday.

Salvini was earlier this year found to have accepted a ticket to Moscow paid for by the Russian embassy, ostensibly for peace talks over Ukraine.

The trip was cancelled and the money reportedly paid back.

READ ALSO: Italy’s Salvini questioned over Russia ties ahead of election campaign

Silvio Berlusconi, the leader of the Forza Italy party also running for election along with the League and FdI as part of the right-wing coalition, has not commented so far on accusations of Italian parties being funded or supported by Russia.

Berlusconi is known for having a friendship with Vladimir Putin stretching back two decades.

Giuseppe Conte, leader of the Five Star Movement, which has opposed the sending of more arms to Ukraine, said his party was “transparent” and had no links to Russian funding. He said the alleged interference risked “polluting the electoral campaign with insinuations and inferences.”

There was “no news” of Italian parties being mentioned specifically in the US report at the moment, Adolfo Urso, president of the Italian parliament’s Copasir intelligence oversight board, told national broadcaster Rai.

The report sparked renewed calls for investigations into Russia’s influence over Italian politics, with left-wing politicians calling for any individuals and parties involved to be named before the vote.

Enrico Letta, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), called for “transparency” and condemned Russia’s “disturbing” attempts to “contaminate Western democracy” 

He said the current government should reveal anything it knows about Russian influence in politics before the general election.

He also alleged that the League has not cut its longstanding ties with the United Russia party that backs Putin.

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

There has been growing concern over potential interference by Russia in Italian politics since the collapse of the government led by current prime minister Mario Draghi in late July.

The collapse was triggered by parties including the League and Forza Italia, which are known to have historically friendly relations with Moscow.

All parties involved have denied accusations from opponents that their actions were in any way influenced by Russia.

Draghi told parliament in July that Italy must “step up efforts to combat interference from Russia and other autocracies in our politics”.

Member comments

  1. Well well!
    Your headline and report do everything to imply strongly, that there are Russian backers of ( only) the right wing parties in the Italian elections.
    Yet, in the detail,
    “ There was no news of Italian parties ( of any side) being mentioned in the US report!” !
    So, how about you report verified claims, based on the truth, instead of constantly fear mongering about the so called “ far right” parties?
    As the Right wing parties have been steadily gaining majority popularity for some many months, it would seem entirely unnecessary for any outside party to need to influence in their favour?
    Sounds as plausible as the last insidious claims made by Hilary Clinton et all into so -called Russian influence in the US elections- al BS!
    So how about getting some reliable objective news reporting?
    Otherwise, I’m so sick of your one sided articles, always promoting the left viewpoint, I will cancel my membership. ( as have friends of mine already!)
    More objective reliable news, please!

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Italian elections LIVE BLOG: First exit polls expected after 11pm

Italy voted on Sunday in crucial polls expected to result in the first far-right government in the country’s postwar history. Follow The Local's latest updates as results come in on election night.

Italian elections LIVE BLOG: First exit polls expected after 11pm

MAIN POINTS:

  • Polls closed at 11pm
  • Exit polls due before 11:30pm
  • Turnout appears to be lower than 2018 election
  • Right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party expected to win by a landslide

23.10 First exit polls

Polling company Youtrend just presented the first exit poll, giving a large majority to the right-wing bloc, as expected.

It put the right on 42 percent, with the small centre-left coalition led by the PD on 28 percent. This is more or less in line with opinion polls two weeks ago.

Remember these are exit polls and not the official results. There are several other polling companies conducting exit polls tonight, so we’ll also publish those results when they’re out.

23.00 Polls closed

That’s all, folks. Voting is now over, polling stations are closing their doors, and the first exit polls with predicted results will come out within the next half an hour.

22.55 – Campaign blackout?

Election campaigning was supposed to end officially on Friday night, when a blackout begins before the vote to give voters a “period of contemplation”. 

Of course campaign blackouts aren’t that realistic in the time of social media though and it just means candidates get creative with their messaging.

Take for example this TikTok video posted by FdI leader Giorgia Meloni today:

She’s saying “September 25th – I’ve said it all” – a reference to the fact that she’s not really meant to be saying anything. And yes, her surname means ‘melons’.

22:40 – What’s a super-majority in Italy?

Italy’s election on Sunday is expected to produce a far-right government, but how big a majority will it have and what difference does this make?

In Italy there is a difference between a majority and a so-called super-majority. Here’s a quick guide to how the system works, what the difference is, and why it matters so much.

READ ALSO: What’s the difference between a majority and ‘super majority’?

22.30 What are the expected results?

This definitely hasn’t been an election campaign that has kept us on the edge of our seats.

The prediction from the start of the election campaign has been that the right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party will win by a landslide, allowing it to form a government with a large majority.

The most recent opinion polls, published two weeks ago before the pre-election polling embargo began, showed this was by far the most likely outcome.

Italian elections: What’s the difference between a majority and ‘super majority’?

But after what’s been called “one of the worst election campaigns of the post-war period”, with the result looking sure from the start and a severe shortage of any policy to discuss, is there any chance of a surprise result livening things up?

Probably not, the experts say – although voter sentiment has apparently shifted somewhat since the last polls two weeks ago.

Support for the left-leaning Five Star Movement appears to have surged while the hard-right League is flagging, according to pollsters interviewed by Reuters this week.

Still, most said the prediction that the right will take a majority in both houses of parliament and form the next government remains by far the most likely outcome, even if it has been thrown into doubt somewhat by Five Star’s rise.

The polls close in half an hour, and we won’t have much longer to wait after that for the exit polls, which give us an initial, if imperfect, idea of whether the long-predicted result is likely to become reality.

21.50 Long queues, but lower turnout

Long queues were reported at some polling stations around the country today, in some cases with voters queuing before they opened at 7am – leading to speculation that there would be higher turnout than in the 2018 election

But it looks like turnout is in fact lower, according to interior ministry figures, which put it at 51 percent at 7pm – four hours before polls closed – down from 58 percent.

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

The lowest turnout was in the south and islands, according to analysis of the official data by Youtrend, at 40 percent – 12.1 percent lower than in 2018. Political commentators are saying this is likely bad news for the Five Star Movement, which won most of its support from southern regions in 2018.

This highest turnout at 56 percent was in the north-west, which also happens to be where the far-right Brothers of Italy party and the League (formerly the Northern League) have their biggest support base.

Another interesting bit of analysis from Youtrend: turnout is down much more in municipalities with fewer foreign residents (-10.6%) and is down much less in areas where more foreigners live (-5.4 %). “The more foreigners there are, the less the turnout falls”, Youtrend notes.

Lower turnout overall this time isn’t a surprise. Abstentionism was expected to increase, with opinion polls during the election campaign predicting as many as 16 million voters would refrain from voting – Italy has a voting population of just over 46.5 million.

Italian affluenza or voter turnout is generally fairly high by international standards: 73 percent of eligible voters voted in the last parliamentary election in 2018 – though this was the country’s worst-ever rate of participation, and the number has been steadily dropping for years.

Italy’s political leaders were pictured turning out for the vote. Here’s outgoing prime minister, Mario Draghi, who’s not campaigning for re-election and has made it clear he’s not interested in another term.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and his wife Maria Serenella Cappello arrive to cast their vote at the Liceo Mameli polling station in Rome. Photo by RICCARDO ANTIMIANI / ANSA / AFP

21.30 When do we get the first results?

Polls close at 11pm and counting starts immediately after. 

The first exit polls from the country’s leading news media should be out by 11.30. Though they are usually fairly close to the mark, exit polls can’t be relied upon entirely, as the 2013 exit poll debacle showed.

The time needed to announce the first official results depends on how many ballots there are to count. Turnout is expected to be similar to that at the last election in 2018 – maybe slightly lower – so Italian media are predicting 2am for the first official projections based on data from polling stations. Or maybe 3am. We could be in for a long night.

READ ALSO: An introductory guide to the Italian political system

Ballot papers for the election of the Senate are counted first. When that’s complete, volunteers will turn their attention to counting ballots for the lower house of parliament. 

21.00 Italy’s election night begins

Buonasera a tutti and welcome to The Local’s 2022 Italian election blog. There’s a lot at stake in these crucial elections as far right parties Brothers of Italy and the League are expected to win by a landslide.

Voting will close in two hours and we expect the first exit polls shortly after (you can read more here to get a sense of when things will happen tonight), but before then we’ll keep you posted with the latest news, predictions, expert insights and more.

READ ALSO: Far-right Brothers of Italy eyes historic victory as Italy votes

I’m The Local Italy’s editor Clare Speak and I’ll be updating you tonight as the exit polls and first results start to come in.

If you have questions, comments or feedback, please feel free to email or tweet me and I’ll do my best to answer (depending on how busy things get here tonight).

No matter how you feel about the election, I hope you’ll at least enjoy our coverage.

Not sure what to make of it all? Here’s our complete guide to the elections and what’s at stake.

Are you a member of The Local? If not, please consider joining us. If yes, thank you – your support helps us dedicate time and resources to this.

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