The leaders of Italy’s right-wing alliance put on a show of unity yesterday and promised a new era of stable government at a closing rally three days before an election which they are on course to win.
Giorgia Meloni of the Brothers of Italy (Fdi), Matteo Salvini of the League and former premier Silvio Berlusconi of Forza Italia, aged 85, appeared before thousands of supporters in Rome.
They spoke from a stage bearing the slogan “Together, for Italy” in their first joint event in a campaign that has seen them lead in polls but also quarrel over foreign and economic policy.
“We will build a solid, cohesive government with a strong popular mandate, which will remain in power for five years”, said Ms Meloni.
She could become Italy’s first female premier and the most right-wing one since World War II.
Rome-born Ms Meloni, whose party traces its roots to post-fascism but now presents itself as a mainstream conservative force, was playing to a home crowd overwhelmingly dominated by FdI fans.
“I will vote for Meloni because I believe that immigration and taxes are the main issues that need to be addressed,” 21-year-old Margherita Conti told Reuters.
“But I will also do it because I am happy that we will have a female prime minister and that it will be Giorgia.”
In office, Ms Meloni would face daunting challenges including the threat of recession, inflation and spiking energy costs, on top of Italy’s historically high public debt.
She has pledged prudent fiscal policies and to maintain unity with European Union and Nato partners in supporting Ukraine against Russia. But this has caused friction with allies.
Mr Salvini, a past admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has openly criticised sanctions on Moscow, though he sees eye-to-eye with Ms Meloni on tough migration and border policies.
The League leader has also questioned Ms Meloni’s fiscal caution, calling for an extra €30bn in public borrowing to fund measures against the energy crisis.
“The first act of the new government... will be an energy decree to immediately block increases in electricity and gas bills,” he said.
Mr Berlusconi, who rarely appears in public due to frail health, was the first to speak at the rally.
He appeared to have trouble walking and was helped around by Mr Salvini and others.
“We are here, and we are the country’s real majority”, he said.
Before an embargo on polls came into force on September 10, the right-wing bloc was predicted to win around 46pc of the vote, giving them a comfortable majority in both houses of parliament.
Pollsters still expect a right-wing victory on Sunday, but have warned that a surge in support for the left-leaning Five Star Movement (M5S), especially in the poorer south, might dent their lead.
The main rival to Ms Meloni’s bloc is a centre-left coalition, led by the Democratic Party, which two weeks ago polled under 30pc; the M5S was on around 13pc and the centrist Azione-Italia Viva bloc had about 7pc.