Italy’s left insists far-right isn’t destined to win vote
ROME (AP) — Italy’s Democratic Party leader used a rally Tuesday evening to try to galvanize center-left voters, especially young people, trying to confound opinion polls that indicate a right-wing campaign alliance is headed to triumph in this month’s election of a new Parliament.
“No destiny is already written,” former Premier Enrico Letta told a few hundred people in a Rome square. “We will make a democratic and progressive Italy win” in the Sept. 25 balloting.
His chief rival, far-right leader Giorgia Meloni, is intent on becoming the first woman to hold Italy’s premiership.
As Letta tried to instill confidence among the Democrats’ base, an opinion poll published Tuesday said Meloni’s nationalist, fast-growing Brothers of Italy party and Letta’s Democrats are running neck and neck at just over 20% support for each.
But Meloni has a crucial advantage over Letta that could prove her springboard into the premier’s office. She is in a broad campaign alliance with two well-established right-wing and conservative figures — anti-migrant League leader Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi, who has led three governments with his Forza Italia party.
The survey of eligible voters by the Ixe’ Institute polling firm said the 5-Stars had just under 14% support and Salvini’s League nearly 11%. The opinion poll incidated Meloni’s alliance could clinch an absolute majority in both chambers of Parliament.
Letta failed to secure similarly sized campaign allies. On principle, he refused to ally with the populist 5-Star Movement, whose yanking of support in Parliament helped collapse the government earlier this summer of now caretaker Premier Mario Draghi, triggering elections six months early.
Letta’s plan to unite the Democrats’ electoral forces with centrists backfired after the latter refused to campaign with the tiny Greens and far-left forces that are allied with the Democrats.
Rome Mayor Roberto Gualtieri, a prominent Democrat who opened the rally, told the crowd that “this country cannot afford to make a profound regression on social values. We can beat these surveys.”
Other speakers said allowing the far-right to take power could lead to a retreat on rights such as legalized abortion.
A rising star on the left, Elly Schlein, an independent who is deputy governor of the northern Emilia Romagna region, referred to a successful battle in recent years waged by the Democrats to allow same-sex civil unions.
One of the most applauded rally speakers, Schlein said Italians deserve to obtain “something more,” including a same-sex marriage law and a law cracking down on hate crimes, including aggression against the LGBTQ community.
Schlein cited the recent case of two young women who said they were slapped and pushed in a beach town near Rome after they kissed and held hands in public.
Meloni has railed against what she calls the LGBTQ lobby but says she isn’t prejudiced against members of that community.
Closing the rally, Letta said, “it will be be our Italy, democratic and progressive and European and ecological, that wants to change the history of this country.”
He said he was heartened that recent polling data indicates the Democrats are now the most popular party among young Italians.
Letta is also pitching heavily for the support from the undecided, which the Ixe’ Institute said accounted for nearly a quarter of eligible voters who were polled. The institute said the survey, conducted Sept. 2, had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.