MILAN, Aug 7 (Reuters) –
Italy’s centrist Azione party will leave a centre-left election alliance it formed with the Democratic Party (PD) earlier this week ahead of a Sept. 25 ballot, Azione’s party leader said on Sunday.
Azione’s decision to withdraw comes a day after the Italian Green leftist federation and centrist party Impegno Civico, agreed to join the PD-led alliance, a move that was seen as strengthening the centre-left which is already lagging behind conservative rivals.
Polls show that a conservative alliance is set to win next month’s election, with far-right the Brothers of Italy set to be the largest single party. Italy’s election law favours parties that form broad alliances.
Azione leader Carlo Calenda said on Sunday that he had told the PD’s leaders Azione would leave the accord, citing the presence of parties who voted against Draghi’s government as one of the reasons.
The September vote was called after the unity government led by Prime Minister Mario Draghi collapsed last month. Draghi resigned but has stayed on as acting prime minister.
“This has been the most painful decision of my life,” Calenda told state-owned television channel Rai Tre.
Earlier, the Italian Green leftist federation on Saturday agreed to join an electoral alliance led by the Democratic Party (PD), in a move seen as strengthening the centre-left ahead of an election next month.
The ballot is set for Sept. 25 and polls show a conservative alliance is on course for victory, with the far-right Brothers of Italy set to be the largest single party. Italy’s election law favours parties that form broad alliances.
“I’m happy to be able to present this deal which is necessary … because the electoral law punishes isolation,” PD Secretary Enrico Letta told a press conference.
“The right did not lose a minute before striking an alliance … unlike them we’ve wanted to discuss matters first.”
The PD, the largest party on the centre-left with around 24% of the votes, had already agreed to team up with the centrist Azione party.
Azione and its existing +Europa ally poll only around 5-7% in surveys, while the Green/Left list stands at around 4%.
The conservative alliance led by Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy includes the rightist League and the more moderate Forza Italia party of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. It is currently polling at around 45%.
The leftist federation had initially condemned the PD pact with Azione, saying it disregarded the social and environmental issues at the heart of the green platform.
Sinistra Italiana, which forms the federation along with the small Europa Verde party, also criticised the two parties for praising the government of outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
Letta on Saturday sought to bridge differences saying “environmental and social sustainability” issues would be at the core of the campaign.
He ruled out further widening the alliance saying it had already been difficult to build it in its current shape.
“I hope that for the next 50 days the sense of responsibility will prevail over everything else,” Letta said.
“We have the responsibility of preventing Italy from ending up with the first right-right government in its history.”
Additional reporting by Valentina Za; Editing by Christina Fincher