The Forza Italia (FI) led by the evergreen political and media mogul Silvio Belusconi party looks set to out-do the incumbent socially inclusive Democratic Party (PD), which is now led by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Italy’s election on 4 March.
It seems Berlusconi has not lost an iota of his charisma and he has resurrected the belief that he can achieve results nobody else can; this has enabled him to attract positive numbers of frustrated Italian citizens and to assemble a grand coalition of political partners. Despite the Western press having a go at the octogenarian’s alleged wrongdoings, now that Berlusconi has completed his community service, the Italian electorate have been very forgiving. Italy is the third largest economy in the EU and suffers from stagnant productivity growth, heavy sovereign debt and strict controls from Brussels and the European Central Bank.
Forza Italia (Go Italy) and Belusconi have dominated the Italian political scene for three decades; this time, with the support of Noi Con Italia (NCI= Us For Italy), formerly the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats (UdC), the Lega Nord (Northern League LN) often paralleled with Marine Le Pen’s Front Nationalor Geert Wilders Dutch Party for Freedom and the nationalist Fratelid’Italia (Brothers of Italy FdI), they have formed a grand right wing coalition, circumspectly tolerating the EU. Italy are able to deploy candidates abroad and the NCI Candidates in the UK are optimistic about their chances. They feel NCI are doing really well in the entire European constituency, especially in UK, Spain and Switzerland. There are 600,000 Italians in the UK, 350,000 are registered to vote; it is expected that about 30% of these will use their vote. In UK, Maurizio Bragagni- Chief Executive of Tratos Telecoms, UK, is campaigning for the Senate (the Upper House) and Domenico Meliti-CEO of EMD Mechanical Services Ltd, is campaigning for the Camera (Lower House); the pair have campaign support from Conservative Christian Vinante Giovanni, the Tory candidate for London Brentford in May’s local elections and the founding chairman of ItalianConservatives.org. Vinante hopes the coalition will achieve up to a 47% share of the vote, which would be just 3.1% short of the working majority needed. Vinante predicts the PD and the Five Star Movement (M5S) will not top 30% each; it is reported that both the PD and the M5S have failed to sustain support due to disastrous economic and immigration policies or views.
In Italy, right of centre is further right of centre than in the UK. When (if) the coaliton wins, it could be transformational for Italy. The LN leader Matteo Salvini is a federalist euro-sceptic uber-conservative, he is for a flat 15% tax rate and strict controls for immigration. The right wing Fratelid’Italia was founded in 2012 and is headed by euro-sceptic Georgia Meloni. The party’s name comes from the call to unite Italian Brothers in the national anthem. The NCI is headed by MEP Lorenzo Cesa, the original leader of the UdC, who hopes to improve the influence of Christianity in politics. The NCI party have made an attempt to lower their socially conservative reputation and present themselves as more moderate or liberal compared to LN and FdI; they are also for lower taxes, better management of immigration and of the many migrant centres in Sicily and mainland Italy, and for fighting for Italian rights post-Brexit. The reach of the above parties covers the north and south of Italy, geographically, it looks like the coalition has got it stitched up. If the Berlusconi masterplan does not come up trumps, it is most likely a second election would be called.
The populist Berlusconi’s comeback is surprisingly popular in Brussels, although he is pro better relations with Russia (the EU’s arch enemy), and he is campaigning on tax cuts—no austerity policies—increased spending on pensions and less interference from the EU. Berlusconi has cunningly never deserted the EU centre right and he recently attended the funeral of Helmut Kohl. The reason Jean ClaudeJuncker and Michel Barnier favour Berlusconi is that Italy is so critical in keeping the EU in one piece and Berlusconi has confirmed he will keep the Euro and stay in the single currency. The secessionist and federalist elements in this coalition are a threat to the EU. Juncker and Barnier rely on Berlusconi to keep a lid on those impulses. Strategically, Berlusconi has nominated Antonio Tajani the EU Parliament president to be the Italian Prime Minister when (if) the coalition succeeds. It is felt that Tajani, who helped found FI, will put Italy on the EU map. Berlusconi himself is unable to fulfil an official political role until his tax-fraud ban has expired in 2019; however, everyone knows who will be calling the shots.