Berlusconi Aims for Fifth Term as Premier: Italy Campaign TrailBy
Italians go to the polls on March 4 with voters divided over the country’s relationship with the European Union, taxes and immigration. Here’s your daily guide to the latest news.
Analysts insist that a grand coalition of the two biggest mainstream forces is the most likely outcome of the ballot, but Silvio Berlusconi is having none of it. “We are not Germany,” Forza Italia’s 81-year-old, four-time prime minister said. He added that he’s ready to return for a fifth term when his ban on holding public office expires next year.
His center-right coalition was ahead when a polling blackout began on Feb. 17. But its backing fell short of a parliamentary majority, and now it’s anyone’s guess whether voters will either push his coalition over the line or make a German-style compromise of Forza Italia and Matteo Renzi's Democratic Party irresistible.
Grand coalition or not, investors aren’t worried. As Cecile Gutscher reports, the stock market is up, there’s less angst in currency trading than before France’s election last April, and the yield spread with Germany is narrowing.
If the prospect of the populist Five Star winning an improbable majority is less unsettling than it once was, much of the reason is the movement’s candidate for premier, Luigi Di Maio. Alessandra Migliaccio and John Follain recount how the clean-cut, imperturbable 31-year-old transformed a movement founded by a profane comic into one that speaks both to Italy’s poor and its entrepreneurs.
Di Maio revealed a few more faces yesterday of who he’d want as ministers in case of victory, naming his labor, agriculture, and public administration selections, in addition to the pick for environment he named earlier this week. He’s promised the full list, including the key finance and foreign portfolios, by tomorrow. Other party leaders have criticized his unveilings as a gimmick that undermines the president’s role in helping form a government.
Some smells linger. The Northern League’s Matteo Salvini used to insult southerners but now wants their votes. Some southerners haven’t forgotten. A Salvini lookalike drove through the streets of Naples Tuesday with billboards reading “I said you stink. Now I want your vote. Why not, Southerners?”
Quote of the day: “Five Star wouldn’t be able to run a newsstand.” Silvio Berlusconi speaks at an Ansa Forum.
Who’s tweeting: Berlusconi posted comments from an interview on Sky where he touted his flat tax plan, promised breaks for companies hiring unemployed young people, and claimed he did more in government in nine years than other administrations in 50. Commentators on his Twitter feed didn’t seem to agree. The Democratic Party’s Renzi posted campaign ads where a wife, daughter, and son convince a reluctant dad to vote PD. Renzi makes a cameo appearance.
In case you missed it, Berlusconi’s career has had more acts than Madame Butterfly, everything you need to know about Five Star, and can you spot the difference between Berlusconi and Donald Trump? It’s harder than you might expect.
— With assistance by John Follain