ROME, Sept 26 (Reuters) – Italy’s rightist alliance looks sure to win a parliamentary majority following Sunday’s election, but its three main parties have different positions in important areas, which could hobble their administration.
Here are some of the main potential sources of tension between Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy (FdI), Matteo Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.
Brothers of Italy and the League have both called in the past for Italy to leave the euro zone, while Forza Italia has usually presented itself as a moderate, pro-European force.
Meloni and Salvini continue to take aim at “Brussels bureaucrats” in their speeches but Meloni has recently tried to recast FdI as a more moderate Conservative party, while Salvini remains more aggressive.
The three parties all belong to different groups in the European Parliament: Forza Italia is in the European People’s Party, FdI is with the Conservatives and Reformists, while the League is in the Identity and Democracy group.
When European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, answering a question about Italy, said last week the bloc had “tools” to deal with governments that do not respect EU values, Salvini denounced her comments as “shameful arrogance”.
Meloni was far more restrained, saying only that she urged von der Leyen to be “prudent”.
Meloni has spoken out strongly in support of the tough line against Russia espoused by NATO and the EU, pledging to maintain Western sanctions and keep sending weapons to Kyiv.
Berlusconi and Salvini, who have both frequently expressed their admiration of Putin in the past, have been far less clearcut. The League leader has urged caution over sanctions while Berlusconi sparked outrage on Friday when he said Putin had invaded Ukraine to install a government of “decent people.”
The new government’s first task will be to draw up a 2023 budget. Salvini is calling for a 30 billion euro ($29.1 billion)hike in the deficit to shield families and business from the rising energy costs, but Meloni has opposed this, calling for “caution” with public finances.
The allies each have their own fiscal proposals and some will have to be dropped to avoid blowing a hole in state accounts. The League wants to immediately apply a 15% flat-tax regime to the self-employed earning up to 100,000 euros per year, while Forza Italia wants to raise minimum pensions to 1,000 euros a month.
REVAMPING THE EU NATIONAL RECOVERY PLAN
Brothers of Italy says the plan to invest more than 200 billion euros of European post-COVID recovery funds needs to be adjusted to the new challenges arising after the war in Ukraine, including the surging energy prices.
Berlusconi said minor corrections might be possible, but it would be “illogical and dangerous” to ask for any substantial revisions.
The “citizens’ income” poverty relief scheme introduced in 2019 may be another source of irritation. FdI’s election manifesto calls for it to be “abolished”, though in recent days Meloni has changed tack, saying it will be kept for “people unable to work”. Forza Italia, by contrast, has called for it to be increased, with a close Berlusconi aide saying it should be “doubled” for the poorest recipients.
Relations between Meloni and Salvini have often been strained as the fortunes of their parties have swung. Three years ago the League was polling at around 35% with FdI in single figures. While FdI is now the most popular party in Italy, support for the League has crumbled. If Salvini survives as party leader, he will have to find a way to counter Meloni’s growing popularity, which is likely to cause friction. Meloni will also struggle to keep the 85-year-old, sometimes erratic Berlusconi in check.
The League is pushing to give more powers to wealthy northern regions, where it has its strongholds, a move critics say would mean a ‘secession of the rich’. Meloni has put the direct election of the head of state at the top of her agenda, creating a potential clash over where the government’s priorities should lie in terms of institutional and constitutional reform.
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(Reporting by Gavin Jones and Angelo Amante; Editing by Crispian Balmer)