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Mario Draghi’s era as Italy’s prime minister is coming to an end as elections are held across the country on Sunday. A right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy is on course to win, according to opinion polls, although there have been missteps and missteps in the final days of the campaign.
A Meloni victory would mark a dramatic change of direction for Italy, raising concerns in Brussels and EU capitals as the bloc grapples with runaway inflation, war in Ukraine and the threat of power blackouts. electricity when there is a lack of energy this winter.
The exit of Draghi – nicknamed Super Mario for his key role in resolving the eurozone crisis – makes this election a critical moment for Italy and for the European Union.
At stake is the future direction of the EU’s third-largest economy, the stability of the euro zone and the debate among EU member countries on everything from energy security to sending arms to Kyiv .
Here’s what you need to know.
How it works?
On September 25, Italians will elect new lawmakers for both branches of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Polling stations will be open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. The batch of new MPs will be smaller than before, after a 2020 constitutional reform reduced their number from 945 to 600.
About a third of the new MPs will be elected by first-past-the-post, while the rest will be elected based on aggregate party results. Parties that score less than 3% are automatically excluded.
The first indication of who wins will come with an exit poll, which is expected to be announced at 11 p.m. Sunday. When the official results are known on Monday, the ball will be in the court of the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella who, based on the result of the election and the composition of the new parliament, will have to appoint a new Prime Minister.
Mattarella will choose as prime minister the leader who has the best chance of winning the support of parliament in a vote of confidence. Mattarella also has the formal power to appoint ministers, although he usually appoints them on the recommendation of the new prime minister. If no clear majority emerges from the vote, Mattarella will be able to test possible alternative coalitions.
It may take several weeks before the final form of the coalition and its program of government are decided. New MPs are expected to serve for five years. Yet snap elections like this are not uncommon in Italy.
The four main political forces in the running are a right-wing coalition, a centre-left coalition and two outsiders.
The right-wing coalition brings together Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, Matteo Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.
Meloni’s party was once the junior partner in the center-right coalition. In the previous national elections, in 2018, he obtained around 4% of the vote. But after 10 years on the benches of the opposition, the Brothers of Italy are stronger than ever. They pride themselves on being the only ones to stay out of all the coalition governments that ruled Italy in the previous term, including the one led by Draghi.
ELECTION TO THE NATIONAL PARLIAMENT OF ITALY POLL OF POLLS
For more survey data from across Europe, visit POLITICS Survey of surveys.
Meloni’s far-right proposals include halting migration flows with what she calls a “naval blockade” in the Mediterranean and protecting Italian businesses, for example by extending investment screening to other Mediterranean countries. EU. POLITICO has everything you need to know about Meloni’s personal story, plans for the EU, foreign policy and economic agenda.
Matteo Salvini’s League has a similar program and that’s why he constantly loses voters to Meloni. Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, 85, leads the centre-right Forza Italia, which is now by far the smallest party in the right-wing alliance.
The main party in the centre-left coalition is Enrico Letta’s Democratic Party. Letta, who previously served as Italy’s prime minister between 2013 and 2014, is pushing for a social-democratic and pro-EU program while supporting Draghi’s reform plans. He recently received approval of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The centre-left coalition also includes small parties like the liberal More Europe (+Europa), the Italian Left (Sinistra Italiana), the Greens and Civic Engagement (Impegno Civico), a small movement founded by the minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi Di Maio after leaving the 5 Star Movement.
Giuseppe Conte’s anti-establishment 5-star movement operates alone rather than as part of an alliance. Conte, who was Italy’s prime minister just before Draghi, is pushing for a progressive program that includes establishing a minimum hourly wage and strengthening social measures.
At the center of the political spectrum is the so-called “Third Pole”, a centrist group led by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and MEP Carlo Calenda, who was Minister of Industry and Permanent Representative of Italy to of the EU when Renzi was in power. Third pole liberal leaders say they want to continue working on what they call the “Draghi agenda.”
Who could win?
The right-wing coalition is the favorite group to take power, according to polls released earlier this month, ahead of a mandatory blackout on polls.
The Italian right could get up to 45% of the vote, according to POLITICO’S Poll of Polls. Meloni’s Brothers of Italy would be the first movers (25%) while the League and Forza Italia could score 13 and 7 respectively. If these figures are confirmed, a right-wing government could count on a majority, with 250 deputies in the Chamber of Deputies (out of 400) and 126 senators (out of 200).
If the Italian right wins and the Brothers of Italy get the highest score, Meloni will be the coalition’s candidate for prime minister, as decided in a pre-election agreement between the Brothers of Italy, the League and Forza Italia .
The Democratic Party is polling around 22 percent. If the polls are good, his only chance of gaining power would be through a hypothetical wide-ranging alliance, overtaking the current centre-left coalition.
Conte’s 5-star movement, which is particularly popular in the south, had 13% of the vote before the polls were cut, but analysts say it could perform better than expected. The third pole could obtain 7% of the votes.
What does Brussels think?
Some EU and member country officials fear Meloni could become Italy’s next prime minister.
If things go in a “difficult direction” after Italy’s election on Sunday, “we have the tools,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said last Friday, prompting criticism from Italian politicians, who accused her of interfering with their election the day before the vote.
During the campaign, Meloni tried to reassure European institutions and international partners that she was not Eurosceptic. But his protectionist positions and statements from the past suggest otherwise. “There’s still the fear in the back of everyone’s mind here that we might see the old Meloni when she’s elected,” as an EU diplomat put it.
Meloni would like to reopen discussions with Brussels on projects funded through the country’s post-pandemic recovery plan, arguing that with the current energy crisis, priorities have changed. In parallel, she opposed a so-called “competition decree”, one of the key reforms agreed with Brussels to obtain these funds.
Meloni has promised to be prudent on public spending, but some member countries fear having him at the table in upcoming talks to reform EU public spending rules.
Will Rome change its mind about Russia?
Italy’s stance on Russia emerged as a major issue just hours before the vote. Draghi’s pro-NATO and pro-Ukraine stances are shared by the Democratic Party and the Third Pole. But other parties have been more ambiguous.
Right-wing parties are traditionally close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. But since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, they have taken different positions.
Meloni differentiated herself from Berlusconi and Salvini by denouncing the Russian invasion of Ukraine and supporting EU sanctions against Moscow. Berlusconi and Salvini initially condemned the Kremlin’s decision, but gradually took a softer approach to Russia.
Salvini has said Western countries should reconsider sanctions against Russia, while earlier this week Berlusconi said Putin simply wanted to replace Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government with “decent people”. Conte opposed sending more weapons to Ukraine.