Thursday

20th Jan 2022

Berlusconi leads polls ahead of Italian elections

  • Mr Berlusconi - about to take over as prime minister for a third time? (Photo: EUobserver)

The bid by Walter Veltroni – Rome's centre-left mayor - to become Italy's next prime minister has sparked strong interest both at home and in wider Europe, but polls and analysts suggest that media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi has a higher chance of winning and achieving a third-time comeback as leader of the EU's fourth largest country.

Italy, with a population of 58 million, is heading for early parliamentary elections on Sunday and Monday (13-14 April), following the fall of the centre-left government led by Romano Prodi in January - two years before his regular term was due to finish.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Mr Prodi, a former European Commission president, lost a confidence vote mainly due to internal struggles in his nine-party ruling coalition and protests by small coalition parties against changes in election laws.

While Mr Prodi managed to cut the country's budgetary deficit from 4.4 percent of GDP in 2006 to 2.4 percent in 2007, Italy is still struggling with its enormous public debt which remains bigger than its gross domestic product.

The gloomy economic outlook of the country has been a key factor in the current campaign, with EU economy commissioner Joaquin Almunia stressing recently that a health-check of Italy's public finances "must be one of the objectives of all of the candidates taking part in the elections."

Mr Berlusconi (71) lost the 2006 elections overwhelmingly due to dissatisfaction among voters with his economic performance. Despite referring to himself as a champion of free markets and holding a comfortable majority in parliament, he failed to fully liberate Italy's rigid pension and social system.

But this weekend he features on electoral posters claiming he wants to take over from the government which has ruined the country and get "Italy back on its feet," promising to cut taxes and boost social benefits to families and to the poor.

In promoting his ideas, Mr Berlusconi has made liberal use of his huge media empire of Mediaset and his commercial control over several television channels, including Italy's public broadcaster RAI.

In polls published before the country's embargo two weeks ago, he was leading by 5 to 9 percent over his key opponent, Mr Veltroni (52), the leader of the centre-left forces.

Viewed as a relative youngster by Italian political standards, Mr Veltroni is trying to inspire young voters, as well as the around 30 percent of the electorate that remains undecided.

He has been campaigning under an Italian version of "Yes, we can" – the slogan of Barack Obama, a front-runner Democrat candidate for the US presidency elections. Mr Veltroni promises to boost Italy's economy and transparency over public affairs.

MEPs to declare EU an LGBTI 'freedom zone'

The symbolic move is an attempt to buttress against right-wing governments' increased scapegoating of LGBTI people, particularly in Poland and Hungary.

Analysis

Relief in EPP group, as Orbán's party finally leaves

The debate over Fidesz had become an unbearable political burden on EPP - but it also represented a core dilemma for many centre-right, mainstream parties struggling to deal with their populist challengers.

EPP group moves forward to suspend Orban's Fidesz

MEPs are scheduled to vote on Wednesday to change the rules of procedure of the centre-right European People's Party parliamentary group to allow the suspension of a member party.

News in Brief

  1. MEPs call for full-scale election observers in Hungary
  2. Nato membership 'very unlikely' on her watch: Finland's PM
  3. Germany investigates Green leaders' Covid-bonuns
  4. Officials surprised by Macron's call for seperate EU-Russia talks
  5. Commission to withhold EU funds from Poland in mine row
  6. 'Patriotic millionaires' call for wealth tax at virtual Davos
  7. Borders must not be moved by force, Scholz warns
  8. MEPs demand public consultation on gas and nuclear

EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map

The European Commission has proposed additional measures to limit non-essential travel within and to the European Union - amid fears over more transmissible mutations triggering a new surge in cases across the bloc.

Latest News

  1. Macron promises strong EU borders
  2. MEPs to crackdown on digital 'Wild West'
  3. Macron calls for new security order and talks with Russia
  4. Macron's vision will hit EU Council veto buffers
  5. Hydrogen - the 'no-lose bet' for fossil-fuel industry?
  6. Tomorrow MEPs can end EU animal export horror show
  7. An EU-Africa 'equal partnership' must tackle past and present
  8. Metsola becomes youngest EU Parliament president

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us