Saturday

25th Feb 2017

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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 set to approve Canada trade deal

The European Parliament is expected to give the green light to the EU-Canada free trade agreement, which would start being implemented in April.

EU leaders to discuss migration, in Trump's shadow

New US president Trump overshadows the Malta summit of EU leaders on Friday, as they discuss the bloc's future amid new geopolitical realities, and step up efforts to stop migration via Libya from North African countries.

EU leaders must stand up to Trump, say MEPs

MEPs have urged the EU to stand up for European values, starting with rejecting Trump's presumed choice for US ambassador, who has stated that he wants to "tame" the bloc.

France's Macron issues Brexit warning

The centrist presidential candidate tells talented Britons to come to France and warns against giving the UK "undue advantages" after Brexit, in a speech in London.

French police raid Le Pen's party office

Officers raid the National Front headquarters near Paris over allegations that leader Marine Le Pen used fake EU parliament contracts to pay her personal staff.

News in Brief

  1. Spanish court jails former IMF chief Rato
  2. Macron proposes Nordic-style economic model for France
  3. Germany posts record high budget surplus
  4. Labour ousts Ukip in Brexit homeland
  5. Dutch lower house approves EU-Ukraine treaty
  6. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  7. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  8. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EURORDISJoin the Rare Disease Day and Help to Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  3. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  4. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  5. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  6. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  7. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  9. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  10. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations