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Italy’s right is putting itself on a united front in the final days of the election campaign

Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has vowed to restore Italians’ “pride” and establish a strong government for five years in a rare appearance with her right-wing partners ahead of Sunday’s general election.

In the only joint campaign rally, Meloni and her allies Matteo Salvini, the League’s leader, and billionaire media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi put aside their personal rivalries as they sought to forge a united front and appeal to Italians’ thirst for political stability and effective government.

“We are ready to return freedom, pride and greatness to Italy,” said Meloni, leader of the Italian Brotherhood, to cheering crowds in Rome’s historic Piazza del Popolo. “We are free citizens, not subjects. The Italian state has treated people as subjects for a long time.”

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Salvini was confident that their coalition of parties could provide a stable government – something that had long eluded Italy – and insisted that it would not take orders from abroad. “We will win and rule together for five years,” he said. “Paris and Brussels will have to deal with it.”

The rally comes after an ill-tempered campaign that could hardly have come at a worse time for the country, unleashed by the early collapse of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s national unity government this summer.

When they vote on Sunday, after one of the shortest campaigns in the country’s history, the Italians are expected to provide a crucial mandate to a right-wing coalition led by Meloni, whose opponents have failed to put together a united front for a more effective fight.

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But the results – expected on Monday – could hold some surprises: The anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which was on the verge of collapse, recently regained some lost ground, vowing to defend a major “citizens’ entry” welfare scheme that threatened the right

Many pollsters expect voter turnout to fall at all, reflecting Italians’ disappointment with the political options on offer and pessimism about the state of their democracy.

Giorgia Meloni supporters gather at a right-wing rally in central Rome on Thursday. © Alessandra Tarantino / AP

“People are frustrated and angry,” said Roberto Delemonte, a professor of political science at Luis University in Rome. In the past fifteen years, they have seen that their economic situation has not really improved. People are tired of saying, “Nothing has changed so why bother voting.”

While rising energy bills and the cost of living in Italy are voters’ biggest concerns, parties have struggled to provide any coherent response to the crisis during the campaign.

Instead, center-right parties vowed to stop illegal immigration, cut taxes, and defend Italian identity, while many center and left-wing parties tried to suggest that a vote for them was a vote to keep Draghi, though he himself ruled out any return to the party. Prime minister.

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“The cost of energy is at the top of everyone’s concern, but it is not an issue that creates a divide between parties,” said Lorenzo Brigliasco, co-founder of U Trend, a political opinion polling agency. “Every party says the same thing but they don’t give exact recipes. It is very difficult to read this campaign from an issues perspective.”

Draghi, the former European Central Bank chief who led Italy in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, still enjoyed a high degree of public support and the confidence of most Italians when his government collapsed into a political crisis in July.

That drama had major repercussions on the dynamics of this election, as Enrico Letta, leader of the center-left Democratic Party (PD) and a staunch supporter of Draghi, scrapped a long-planned alliance with Five Star, whose leader Giuseppe Conte launched the series. One of the events that led to the fall of the government.

Divisions between the center-left gave a significant structural advantage to the right-wing caucus given that a third of the seats in the Italian parliament were won through first-party races.

During his election campaign, Letta sounded what he called an “alarm for democracy”, urging Italians fearful of the fallout from a right-wing government to support the Democratic Workers’ Party as the “only alternative”.

Carlo Calenda, the leader of the small centrist Azion party – who initially agreed to ally with the PDP before changing his mind – has claimed that a vote for his centrist party could extend Draghi’s term by ensuring paralysis in the new parliament.

“Mario Draghi will be in power until there is another government. If you get 12 per cent [of the vote]”No one is going to win,” he told the Financial Times earlier this month. “My suggestion would be, there is a dead end, let’s continue with my Draghi. What are you going to do? It is the only solution.”

In her appearance at the rally on Thursday, Meloni accused the left of failing to focus on core issues, and instead trying to raise concerns about what a right-wing government might mean. “We launched a campaign to try to describe our vision for the country for the next five years,” she said. “The left just talks about us.”

Yet putative centre-right allies sniped each other equally at rivals across the political spectrum. “I was surprised by some of Salvini’s statements,” Meloni told an Italian television interviewer recently. “It sometimes seems more to me than to arguing with our opponents.”

Additional reporting by Giuliana Ricucci in Rome

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