Italy election winners aim for an era of political stability

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By Keith Weir and Elisa Anzolin

ROME (Reuters) – The right-wing alliance that won Italy’s national elections will usher in a rare era of political stability to tackle a range of issues besetting the eurozone’s third-largest economy, one of its senior officials.

Giorgia Meloni looks set to become Italy’s first female prime minister to head her most right-wing government since World War Two after leading the conservative alliance to triumph in Sunday’s election.

Matteo Salvini, leader of the League party who is a key ally of Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, ignored his own party’s poor performance and predicted the end of Italy’s revolving door governments.

“I expect that for at least five years we will move forward without any changes, without any twists and turns, prioritizing the things we need to do,” Salvini told a news conference. .

The near-final results showed the right-wing bloc, which also includes Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, should have a solid majority in both houses of parliament, potentially ending years of upheaval and shaky coalitions.

Graphic: 2022 Italian general election https://graphics.Reuters.com/ITALY-ELECTION/lgvdwrmxzpo/elections.jpg

The result is the latest success for the right in Europe after a breakthrough by Sweden’s anti-immigration Democrats in an election this month and advances by the National Rally in France in June.

“The Italians have given us an important responsibility,” Meloni said in a social media post Monday.

“It will be up to us now not to disappoint them and to do our best to restore dignity and pride to the nation,” she said, alongside a picture of herself holding the country’s flag.

Meloni, who has spoken out against what she calls “the LGBT lobby” and mass immigration, tries to downplay her party’s post-fascist roots and portrays it as a dominant group like the British Conservatives.

She pledged to support Western policy on Ukraine and not to take risks with Italy’s fragile finances.

DIFFICULT LEGACY

Meloni and his allies face an impressive list of challenges, including soaring energy prices, war in Ukraine and another economic downturn.

His coalition government, the 68th Italian government since 1946, should not be installed before the end of October and Prime Minister Mario Draghi remains at the head of an interim administration for the time being.

Despite talk of stability, Meloni’s alliance is divided over some very sensitive issues that could be difficult to reconcile once in government.

Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank, pushed Rome to the center of EU policy-making during his 18-month tenure, forging close ties with Paris and Berlin.

In Europe, the first to hail Meloni’s victory were the far-right opposition parties in Spain and France, as well as the conservative national governments of Poland and Hungary, both of which have strained relations with Brussels.

Salvini questions Western sanctions against Russia and he and Berlusconi have often expressed admiration for its leader, Vladimir Putin.

The allies also have differing views on how to handle soaring energy bills and have made a series of promises, including tax cuts and pension reform, that Italy will struggle to afford.

With almost all the results counted, the Brethren of Italy were in the lead with around 26% of the vote, up from just 4% in the last national election in 2018, supplanting the League as the driving force of the right.

The League took less than 9%, compared to more than 17% four years ago, but despite the relatively low score, Salvini said he would remain at the helm of the party. Berlusconi’s Forza Italia got around 8%.

Centre-left and centrist parties won more votes than the right but were penalized by an electoral system that rewards broad alliances. Enrico Letta, the leader of the main opposition party, the Democratic Party, has announced that he will step down as leader.

Despite its net result, the vote was not a resounding endorsement for the right-wing bloc. Turnout was just 64% compared to 73% four years ago – a record high in a country that has always had high voter turnout.

(Elisa Anzolin reported this story from Milan. Additional reporting by Crispian Balmer, Angelo Amante, Gavin Jones and Alvise Armellini in Rome; Writing by Keith Weir; Editing by Crispian Balmer, Nick Macfie and Alex Richardson)

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