On September 25th a new parliament will be elected in Italy. According to all polls, the right-wing camp can look forward to an election victory. The right-wing coalition led by Georgia Meloni with the post-fascist Fratelli d’Italia is united. But the role of the faithful “Putiniani” Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini should stir up some dust in the election campaign, estimates FAZ Italy correspondent Matthias Rüb.
Matthias Rüb is Italy correspondent for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) in Rome.
SRF News: Despite some personnel issues, the right-wing camp appears united. Is the picture deceptive?
Matthias Rub: No. The alliance is stable. During Wednesday’s negotiations, the party leaders not only agreed on a top candidate for the post of head of government, but also on candidates in the individual constituencies. It’s a clear win for Fratelli d’Italia’s Georgia Meloni. From the beginning, she had demanded that, as in 2018, the party with the most individual votes nominated the prime minister. At that time she was still subject to the Cinque Stelle, but now she could succeed in nominating herself as a candidate for the highest government office.
So Berlusconi from Forza Italia and Lega boss Salvini had to give in?
Exactly. The alpha animal in the right-wing alliance is currently female. According to all polls, Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia is clearly in the lead with 23 to 25 percent approval among all parties. The Lega is far behind at 13 percent, and Forza Italia comes in at seven to nine percent. So the latter would not even be as strong together as Meloni.
Salvini and Berlusconi have attracted attention in recent years for their proximity to Russia. To what extent can this become a problem for the right in the election campaign?
In fact, the deepest fault line in the right-wing coalition is the dispute over the Ukraine war. Although Meloni was the only opposition force against the broad national unity coalition, she has unconditionally supported Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Ukraine policy from the start. Salvini and Berlusconi, on the other hand, have been friends with Russia and Putin for many years. As “Putiniani” they repeatedly threw a spanner in the works for Draghi with their demands to stop arms deliveries to Ukraine. It remains to be seen whether this will be a burden for the future government.
According to research by the newspaper “La Repubblica”, Russian Wagner mercenaries are sending refugees from Libya to Italy to help Salvini in the election campaign against illegal migration. How do you rate that?
The report is based on information from the secret service and the interior ministry. He is difficult to assess from the outside, but plausible. In recent weeks and months, most of the refugee boats have arrived from Tunisia on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa. Now apparently most of the boats come from Libya. Namely from the area controlled by renegade General Hafta, who is allied with Moscow and supported by the Wagner mercenaries.
The election campaign will be short and already very toxic, as now also the alleged role of Moscow shows. Up to 40 percent of the electorate is still undecided. A lot can still happen in just under eight weeks. Predictions are almost impossible.
The interview was conducted by Christina Scheidegger.