Analysis: What's the climate in Italy ahead of the election?

·3-min read
Analysis: What's the climate in Italy ahead of the election?

For many reasons, this has been a very unusual electoral campaign in Italy ahead of the September 25th elections and it's not just because for the first time after many years it has taken place during the summer while Italians were still on holiday.

With an unprecedented energy crisis that has affected businesses and households as a result of the war in Ukraine, it feels that the country's upcoming snap elections are not on the top of many Italians' priority list.

When Prime Minister Mario Draghi resigned back in July, polls suggested Italians were mostly reluctant to go back to the polls.

The problem is that these elections are by far among the most crucial ones the country has seen in years.

The next government will be in charge of implementing reforms and fulfilling targets for receiving a large sum of pandemic funds from the European Union.

It's a historic chance that has not been presented to the country since World War II to rebuild its economy and make it more competitive.

Italy's next leader will also be in charge of shaping the country's international relations at a time when these seem to matter more than anything. The COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have both forced European countries to rethink their relations with the EU and with Western allies.

A more digital-focussed election campaign

The electoral campaign has also been different -- communication has mainly been on social media with political leaders seen more frequently online than on public squares.

There have been in-person debates with the Rimini meeting, the Cernobbio summit and the recent face-to-face debate between far-right Giorgia Meloni and centre-left Enrico Letta organised by Italian newspaper il Corriere della Sera as the main highlights.

If the first one offered Prime Minister Draghi the chance to outline his political legacy while advising Italy’s future government leaders, the second one looked more like an opportunity for political leaders to open up about their political programmes.

With former interior minister Matteo Salvini questioning the effectiveness of sanctions against Russia, we also witnessed for the first time how divisions within the right-wing alliance have started taking a toll.

To many, a gesture from Meloni, who was pictured placing her hands on her head, symbolised the two far-right leaders' opposite stance on the issue. They could soon form a right-wing coalition that includes Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia.

It was the recent debate between the Democratic Party's Letta and Brothers of Italy's Meloni that was the first serious one–to–one confrontation between the two rivals.

But instead of being aired on TV, the debate was streamed online on _il Corriere della Sera_’s website. The decision not to have the usual TV debate was taken by Agcom – Italy’s communication regulatory authority.

Although the audience is different compared to the one that would normally watch Italy’s public broadcaster, the two leaders had the opportunity to express their take on a number of pressing issues: from the energy crisis and rising bills to fiscal policies.

For potential voters who haven't been following social media and digital platforms or debates, the hope is that they can do the “old school thing” which means finding the time and the willingness to read through political programmes.

But recent polls from early September showed that some 35% of Italians don't want to go back to the polls, a trend that if confirmed, could put turnout at a record low, analysts say.