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The ‘important’ vote could get Italy right; many people may boycott

ROMAN — Italians will vote on Sunday in an election seen as a pivotal one as Europe wobbles in the aftermath of Russia’s war in Ukraine. For the first time in Italy since the end of World War II, the election could put a far-right leader on the job.

Soaring energy costs and the rapidly climbing prices of staples like bread – the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of bread warehouses in Ukraine – have left many Italian families and businesses reeling.

Against that bleak backdrop, Giorgia Meloni and her Brotherhood party – with their neo-fascism roots and agenda of God, homeland and Christian identity – appear to be at the forefront of this movement. parliamentary elections in Italy.

They could be a test case for whether far-right ideology is gaining more force in the 27-nation European Union. Recently, a right-wing party in Sweden has gained notoriety by taking advantage of people’s fear of crime.

Meloni’s main coalition partner is right-wing League party leader Matteo Salvini, who blames migrants. Salvini has long been a staunch supporter of right-wing governments in Hungary and Poland.

Nathalie Tocci, director of the Rome-based company, said: “Elections between the war, the middle of the energy crisis and the dawn of what could be an economic crisis … by definition are important elections. tank Institute of International Affairs.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who ordered Moscow to invade Ukraine on 24 February, is betting that “Europe will fall apart” under the weight of the economic and energy problems caused by the war, Tocci told the Associated Press.

Salvini, who draws his voter base from business owners in northern Italy, has worn pro-Putin t-shirts in the past. Salvini also questioned the wisdom of maintaining Western economic sanctions on Russia, saying they could do too much damage to Italy’s economic interests.

The publication of the polls was halted 15 days before Sunday’s vote, but it had previously said Meloni’s party would be the party with the largest number of votes, just ahead of the centre-left Democrats led by the former Prime Minister. General Enrico Letta at the top.

A campaign alliance linking Meloni with conservative allies Salvini and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gives Letta a clear advantage under Italy’s complicated system of seat division in Parliament.

Letta had hoped in vain for a campaign alliance with the leftist populist Five Star Movement, the largest party in the outgoing legislature.

While it is a difficult time for Europe, Sunday’s election could see Italy’s lowest turnout ever. The most recent election, in 2018, had a record low voter turnout of 73%. Poll expert Lorenzo Pregliasco said this time the percentage could drop to as low as 66%.

Pregliasco, head of polling firm YouTrend, said Italy’s three most recent divergent ruling coalitions since last election had left Italians “disgruntled, frustrated. They don’t see their vote as something important.”

The outgoing government is headed by former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi. In early 2021, the Italian President tapped Draghi to form a unity government following the collapse of the second ruling coalition of 5-star leader Giuseppe Conte.

In what Pregliasco calls “a clear paradox,” polls indicate that “most Italians like Draghi and think his government has done a great job.” However, Meloni, the only major party leader to refuse to join Draghi’s coalition, is polling the strongest.

As Tocci put it, Meloni’s party was popular “simply because it was the new kid on the block.”

Draghi has said that he does not want another term.

To Meloni’s displeasure, criticism remained for her that she hadn’t clearly broken her party’s roots in a neo-fascist movement founded by those who nostalgic for dictator Benito Mussolini behind his role the regime’s disastrous role in World War II. During the campaign, she declared that she was “no risk to democracy.”

Some political analysts say that worries about fascism are not their main concern.

“I fear incompetence, not the threat of fascism,” said Roberto D’Alimonte, professor of political science at LUISS, a private university in Rome. “She didn’t manage anything.”

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

Instead, her main right-wing coalition partner is worrying, D’Alimonte told the AP.

“Salvini will be the troublemaker, not Meloni,” he said. “It is not Meloni calling for an end to sanctions against Russia. That’s Salvini. Meloni calling for more debt or more deficit is not Meloni. That’s Salvini. “

But recent incidents have raised concerns about Brothers of Italy.

An Italian Brotherhood candidate in Sicily has been suspended by his party after he posted social media phrases expressing appreciation for Hitler. Separately, a brother of one of Meloni’s co-founders was spotted giving what appeared to be a Nazi salute at a funeral for a relative. The brother denied that was what he was doing.

For years, the right has fought against uncontrolled immigration, after hundreds of thousands of migrants reached Italy’s shores in smugglers’ boats or the ships that rescued them in the Mediterranean Sea. Both Meloni and Salvini opposed what they saw as an invasion by foreigners who did not share what they called Italy’s “Christian” character.

Letta, who wants to facilitate citizenship for the children of legal immigrants, also played the fear card. In his party’s election campaign, bus ad, half of the image depicts a serious-looking Letta with his one-word motto, “Choose”, the other half features a creepy image of him. Putin. Salvini and Berlusconi both expressed admiration for the Russian leader. Meloni is in favor of supplying weapons so that Ukraine can defend itself.

With energy bills 10 times higher than a year ago, how to save workers’ jobs ranks high among the worries of Italian voters.

But perhaps with the exception of Salvini, who wanted to revisit Italy’s closed nuclear power plants, the candidates did not distinguish themselves in proposing solutions to the energy crisis. Nearly all are pushing for an EU gas price cap.

The dangers of climate change are no longer great in the Italian campaign. Italy’s diminutive Greens Party, a running partner of Letta’s, is forecast to win only a few seats in the National Assembly.

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

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