politics

Five Star Plans to Boost Public Spending: Italy Campaign Trail

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.

Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio promised a shift back to government largesse. He named Andrea Roventini, an economics professor from Sant’Anna University in Pisa, as his pick for finance minister if he’s in charge of the next government. With Roventini – who’s published with Nobel winner Joseph Stiglitz – holding the government’s purse strings, Italy would “go back to an expansionary policy,” Di Maio said. 

Deutsche Bank thinks Five Star may be a bigger threat than most people realize. In a research note, analysts said that, given past polling errors, the anti-establishment movement might win enough seats to “block the formation of any realistic, broadly centrist, pro-European government.” If that happens, expect Italian bond spreads to blow out to levels not seen in five years, Bloomberg’s John Ainger and Anooja Debnath write. 

Luigi Di Maio greeted by supporters at a Five Star rally.
Photographer: Marco Bertorello/AFP via Getty Images

After being turned down by some well known soccer stars, Di Maio said that if he wins, his sports minister will be retired swimmer Domenico Fioravanti, the double gold winner at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Besides Roventini, he’s also announced his picks for the environment, agriculture and economic development ministers, and later Thursday he’s promised to announce his full team.

Quote of the day: “I hope the Italians give me a majority so that I can ignore them,” Five Star’s Luigi Di Matteo on Matteo Salvini’s League. “Just because they got rid of the word ‘Northern,’ you can't forget they used to say ‘Vesuvius, cover them with fire’.”

Italy’s voters aren’t happy: they’re old, worried about the future, afraid of foreigners and resentful of the bill that’s come due on the country’s massive debt. As these charts by Giovanni Salzano, Chiara Albanese and Ben Sills show, the electorate is splintered and there’s going to be high absenteeism at the ballot box. After all of the three major political blocs garnered more than 20 percent when the polling blackout began on Feb. 17, there’s no clear line on how a fractured parliament can lead to a governing coalition.

Ipsos

Steve Bannon is coming to Italy to follow the election, according to La Stampa. The former White House chief strategist reportedly sees the vote as an opening the way to populist movements to take on the likes of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and a European elite that has failed to produce jobs, especially for the young. Bannon had been due to meet League leader Matteo Salvini, but that's been delayed, the paper says.

As if on cue, Italy’s unemployment rose in January to 11.1 percent from 10.9 percent a month earlier, although the numbers hid a 25,000 increase in the number of people with jobs.

Former Prime Minister Enrico Letta hopes current Premier Paolo Gentiloni stays in office with a reinforced majority. That’s not what the final opinion polls suggest will happen.

Who’s tweeting: Berlusconi urged people to vote, warning that Italy would cease to be a real democracy if less than half the electorate go to the polls. Matteo Renzi of the governing Democratic Party tweeted a lengthy interview. Renzi again ruled out an accord with Berlusconi. Di Maio insists he’s close to winning a majority.

In case you missed it, everything you need to know about Five Star, Silvio Berlusconi’s career has had more acts than Madame Butterfly, and can you spot the difference between Berlusconi and Donald Trump? It’s harder than you might expect.
 

— With assistance by John Follain

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