Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
AP

'Crucial' vote could move Italy to right; many might boycott

  • Updated
  • 0

ROME (AP) — Italians will vote on Sunday in what is being billed as a crucial election as Europe reels from the repercussions of Russia's war in Ukraine. For the first time in Italy since the end of World War II, the election could propel a far-right leader into the premiership.

Soaring energy costs and quickly climbing prices for staples like bread — the consequences of Russia's invasion of breadbasket Ukraine — have pummeled many Italian families and businesses.

Against that bleak backdrop, Giorgia Meloni and her Brothers of Italy party — with neo-fascist roots and an agenda of God, homeland and Christian identity — appear to be the front-runners in Italy's parliamentary election.

They could be a test case for whether hard-right sentiment is gaining more traction in the 27-nation European Union. Recently, a right-wing party in Sweden surged in popularity by capitalizing on peoples' fears about crime.

No single party in Italy stands much chance of winning enough seats to govern alone, but right-wing and right-leaning centrists forged a campaign pact that could secure Meloni a parliamentary majority and propel her into power. Her main alliance partner is right-wing League party leader Matteo Salvini, who blames crime on migrants and has long been a staunch ideological booster of right-wing governments in Hungary and Poland.

"Elections in the middle of a war, in the midst of an energy crisis and the dawn of what is likely to be an economic crisis ... almost by definition are crucial elections,'' said Nathalie Tocci, director of Rome-based think tank the International Affairs Institute.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who ordered Moscow's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, is gambling that “Europe will break” under the weight of economic and energy problems brought on by the war, Tocci told The Associated Press.

Salvini, who draws his voter base from business owners in Italy's north, has donned pro-Putin T-shirts in the past. Salvini has also questioned the wisdom of maintaining Western economic sanctions against Russia, saying they could hurt Italy's economic interests too much.

The publication of polls was halted 15 days before Sunday's vote, but before then they indicated Meloni’s party would be the biggest vote-getter, just ahead of the center-left Democratic Party headed by former Premier Enrico Letta.

The campaign alliance linking Meloni to Salvini and former Premier Silvio Berlusconi confers a clear advantage over Letta under Italy's complex system of divvying up seats in Parliament.

Letta had hoped in vain for a campaign alliance with the left-leaning populist 5-Star Movement, the largest party in the outgoing legislature.

While it is a fraught moment for Europe, Sunday's election could see modern Italy's lowest-ever turnout. The last election, in 2018, saw record-low turnout of 73%. Pollster Lorenzo Pregliasco says this time the percentage could drop to as low as 66%.

Pregliasco, who heads the YouTrend polling company, says Italy's last three different governing coalitions since the last election have left Italians “disaffected, disappointed. They don't see their vote as something that matters.”

The outgoing government is headed by former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi. In early 2021, Italy's president tapped Draghi to form a unity government after the collapse of the second ruling coalition of 5-Star leader Giuseppe Conte.

In what Pregliasco called an “apparent paradox,” polls indicate that “most Italians like Draghi and think his government did a good job." Yet Meloni, the sole major party leader to refuse to join Draghi's coalition, is polling the strongest.

As Tocci put it, Meloni's party is so popular “simply because it’s the new kid on the block."

Draghi has said he doesn't want another term.

To Meloni's annoyance, criticism still dogs her that she hasn’t made an unambiguous break with her party’s roots in a neo-fascist movement founded by nostalgists for dictator Benito Mussolini after his regime’s disastrous role in World War II. During the campaign, she declared that she is “no danger to democracy.”

Some political analysts say worries about the fascist question aren't their main concern.

“I am afraid of incompetence, not the fascist threat,″ said Roberto D'Alimonte, a political science professor at LUISS, a private university in Rome. ”She has not governed anything.”

Meloni served as youth minister in Berlusconi’s last government, which ended a decade ago.

Instead, her main right-wing coalition partner is worth worrying about, D'Alimonte told The AP.

“Salvini will be the troublemaker, not Meloni,″ he said. “It is not Meloni calling for the end of sanctions against Russia. It is Salvini. It is not Meloni calling for more debt or more deficit. It is Salvini.”

But recent incidents have fed worries about Brothers of Italy.

A Brothers of Italy candidate in Sicily was suspended by his party after he posted phrases on social media showing appreciation for Hitler. Separately, a brother of one of Meloni’s co-founders was spotted giving what appeared to be the fascist salute at a funeral for a relative. The brother denied that was what he was doing.

For years, the right wing has crusaded against unbridled immigration, after hundreds of thousands of migrants reached Italy's shores aboard smugglers' boats or vessels that rescued them in the Mediterranean Sea. Both Meloni and Salvini have thundered against what they see as an invasion of foreigners not sharing what they call Italy's “Christian" character.

Letta, who wants to facilitate citizenship for children of legal immigrants, has, too, played the fear card. In his party's campaign, ads on buses, half the image depicts a serious-looking Letta with his one-word motto, “Choose,” with the other half featuring an ominous-looking image of Putin. Salvini and Berlusconi have both expressed admiration for the Russian leader. Meloni backs supplying arms so Ukraine can defend itself.

With energy bills as much as 10 times higher than a year ago, how to save workers' jobs ranks high among Italian voters' worries.

But perhaps with the exception of Salvini, who wants to revisit Italy's closed nuclear power plants, candidates haven't distinguished themselves in proposing solutions to the energy crisis. Nearly all are pushing for a EU cap on gas prices.

The perils of climate change haven't loomed large in the Italian campaign. Italy's tiny Greens party, a campaign partner of Letta, is forecast to capture barely a few seats in Parliament.


Colleen Barry reported from Milan. Sabrina Sergi contributed to this report from Rome.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

0 Comments
0
0
0
0
0

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

A federal appeals court is allowing the Justice Department to resume its use of classified records seized from Donald Trump’s Florida estate in its ongoing criminal investigation. The ruling Wednesday clears the way for investigators to continue scrutinizing the documents as they evaluate whether to bring criminal charges over the storage of top-secret government records at Mar-a-Lago. The appeals court note that Trump presented no evidence that he had declassified the records. Trump claimed in a Fox News Interview Wednesday that “If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify" material just by saying “It’s declassified” and "even by thinking about it."

After announcing earlier this month that a pandemic-related emergency rental assistance program is being phased out as federal funding is exhausted, Vermont state officials now say they believe an estimated $20 million more in federal funding is available to extend the benefits for some of the lowest income Vermonters. The state has been hearing from advocates since it announced on Sept. 1 that the program will stop taking new applications for rent and other housing related expenses on Oct. 1 and rental assistance for existing beneficiaries will be reduced. The deputy Administration secretary says the top priority is extending the benefit through April to the population at 30% of area median income.

The House has passed legislation to overhaul the rules for certifying the results of a presidential election as lawmakers accelerate their response to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and Donald Trump’s failed attempt to remain in power. The bill is similar to bipartisan legislation moving through the Senate. It would overhaul an arcane 1800s-era statute known as the Electoral Count Act that governs how states and Congress certify electors and declare presidential election winners. Trump and his allies unsuccessfully tried to exploit loopholes in the law in an attempt to overturn his defeat to Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

The wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, conservative activist Virginia Thomas, has agreed to participate in a voluntary interview with the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. Attorney Mark Paoletta says Thomas is “eager to answer the committee’s questions to clear up any misconceptions about her work relating to the 2020 election.” The committee has sought an interview with Thomas to know more about her role in trying to help former President Donald Trump overturn his election defeat. She contacted lawmakers in Arizona and Wisconsin as part of that effort.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a partial mobilization of reservists in Russia. It's an unpopular step that sparked rare protests across the country and led to almost 1,200 arrests. Putin's order follows humiliating setbacks for his troops nearly seven months after invading Ukraine. It’s the first mobilization in Russia since World War II. Western backers of Ukraine derided the move as an act of weakness. The Russian leader warned the West he isn’t bluffing about using everything at his disposal to protect Russian territory. This appeared to be a veiled reference to his nuclear arsenal.

Russia has told the world that it has “no choice” but to take military action in Ukraine. After days of denunciations of Russia at the prominent diplomatic gathering, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sought to shift the focus to Washington. His speech centered on a claim that the United States and its allies are aggressively undermining the international system that the U.N. represents. The West maintains that it's Russia doing that. Invoking history ranging from the U.S. war in Iraq in the early 2000s to the 20th-century Cold War, Lavrov portrayed the U.S. as a bully

Republican J.R. Majewski has campaigned for a northwestern Ohio congressional seat by presenting himself as an Air Force combat veteran who deployed to Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Military records and an Air Force accounting of his service tell a different story. They indicate Majewski never deployed to Afghanistan but instead completed a six-month stint helping to load planes at an airbase in Qatar, a longtime U.S. ally that was a safe distance from the fighting. Majewski’s account of his time in the military is just one aspect of his biography that's suspect. His post-military career has been defined by exaggerations, conspiracy theories, talk of violent action against the U.S. government and occasional financial duress.

The separatist leaders of four Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine say they are planning to hold referendums this week for the territories to become part of Russia as Moscow loses ground in the war it launched. The votes will be held in the Luhansk, Kherson and partly Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions. The announcement of the balloting starting Friday came after a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that they were needed. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also said that folding Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine into Russia itself would make their redrawn frontiers “irreversible” and enable Moscow to use “any means” to defend them.

A Kremlin-orchestrated referendum got underway in occupied regions of Ukraine that sought to make them part of Russia, with some officials carrying ballots to apartment blocks accompanied by gun-toting police. Kyiv and the West condemned it as a rigged election whose result was preordained by Moscow. The referendums in the Luhansk, Kherson and partly Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions were widely seen as a prelude to Moscow annexing the regions. The voting overseen by authorities installed by Russia, scheduled to run through Tuesday, is almost certain to go the Kremlin’s way. Meanwhile, the governor of the Kharkiv region said 436 bodies were exhumed from a mass burial site in the eastern city of Izium, 30 with signs of torture.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy is rolling out his party's Trump-like midterm election agenda. The GOP leader appeared Friday in Pennsylvania to challenge President Joe Biden and the Democrats in power. But House Republicans have a sometimes spotty record of delivering and governing in Congress. McCarthy is in line to seize the speaker's gavel if Republicans win control of the House in November. He's trying to replicate the strategy Newt Gingrich used in 1994. The “Commitment to America” includes broad ideas for the economy, border security and social issues. But McCarthy faces challenges ahead — notably unifying the GOP's different factions. Democrats say the “true details” of the Republican agenda are “frightening.”

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Breaking News

Husker News