Italian historic election campaign ends as far-right bids for power

Monday, September 26th, 2022 09:00 | By
Italian historic election campaign ends as far-right bids for power
Leader of Italian far-right party Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy) Giorgia Meloni holds a speech in Bagnoli, quarter of Naples, Southern Italy, on 23 September, 2022. PHOTO/AFP

Millions of Italians cast their ballots in a national election that could bring the country’s most right-wing government to power since World War II.

More than 50 million Italians eligible to vote on Sunday – including 4.7 million who live abroad – will elect new representatives of a slimmed-down parliament: 200 members for the Senate and 400 for the Chamber of Deputies.

Polls opened at 7am and will close at 11pm local time (05:00 – 21:00 GMT). Exit polls are expected later in the day, but official results will not be announced until Monday.

“I hope something will change for the better, but I am not very confident,” retiree Marinella Faccioli, 75, told Al Jazeera.

Andrea Cocitanti, 25, agreed with the assessment. “We need a change but whatever you choose you get it wrong – the ruling class is the issue. We have to vote, it’s a must, but I wouldn’t vote for any of those I voted for if I had a better choice”.

The electoral campaign kicked off during the summer after political infighting led to the collapse of outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government in July.

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the far-right party Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy), has been dominating the campaign, polling at 25 percent, according to the last survey published before a pre-election ban on September 10.

It would put Meloni on track to become Italy’s first-ever female prime minister at the head of a right-wing coalition that includes anti-immigration populist Matteo Salvini and octogenarian media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi.

Democratic Party led by Enrico Letta, polling at 22 per cent, has failed to forge a broad alliance.

 with other centre and left-leaning parties, reducing its chances to win the election.

The Five Star Movement of Giuseppe Conte, which observers considered a moribund party, was polling at 13 percent after a strong campaign in the country’s south.

The Italian election is taking place amid a biting energy crisis, widespread disillusionment about politicians’ views and questions about the country’s future stance towards the European Union.

Concerns over a far-right coalition taking power in Italy rattled some voters.

“I must vote, it’s a duty in such a historical moment. I fear for the country swinging towards the right, I am very worried,” said Mariaclotilde Malatesta, 60.

But others said they would welcome Meloni’s leadership.

“In my opinion, Meloni is the only politician who can turn the tide of Italy. She is a politician who has always put Italians’ interests first,” said Luciano Scarinci, 79, a former bank employee.

The Russia question

While Meloni’s coalition has maintained a united front on certain flagship policies, including opposition to what it calls “illegal immigrants” and the reduction of taxes, cracks have appeared among its leaders on fiscal and foreign affairs policies.

On the fiscal front, Meloni has stuck to Draghi’s line – refusing to increase Italy’s record-high debt while insisting on capping the price of gas and decoupling it

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