Giorgia Meloni gets personal as Italy votes

By Laura Gozzi, BBC News, Rome

Getty Images A rally by Giorgia Melonifake images

Giorgia Meloni has enjoyed stable ratings since becoming prime minister in 2022

Italians began voting on the third of four days of European elections held in 27 EU countries.

Although the vote is for the next European Parliament, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni hopes the result will strengthen her control over Italian politics. She has even urged voters to “just write Giorgia” on her ballot.

Most EU countries will vote on Sunday, after a turbulent few weeks in which two European leaders and several other politicians suffered physical attacks.

The Prime Minister of Denmark, Mette Frederiksen was attacked on the street in Copenhagen on Friday afternoon, before the Danish vote on Sunday.

He has suffered minor whiplash, his office says, and a suspect has been taken into custody.

Leaders across Europe have united in shock at the latest attack, amid elections involving 373 million potential European voters.

Last month, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico survived an attempt on his life and was only recently allowed to leave the hospital. He has also attacked several German political figures.

These elections are not supposed to influence national politics, but the reality is very different, especially in Italy.

Meloni, who leads the far-right Brothers of Italy (FdI) party, was named prime minister in 2022 and has taken the rare step of putting her name at the top of her party’s ballot, although she has no intention of taking office. a charge. seat in the European Parliament.

Giorgia Meloni has enjoyed stable popularity ratings since becoming prime minister in 2022, boosted by a fragmented left-wing and centrist opposition and the gradual decline of her junior coalition partner, the once-powerful populist Liga de Matteo party. Salvini, whose voters are being attracted by the lure of FDI.

In an attempt to reverse the trend, Salvini has been pushing his party’s rhetoric further to the right.

The League’s election posters – denouncing all manner of EU-backed initiatives, from electric cars to plastic bottle caps – have attracted some ridicule, but also considerable attention.

Antonio Masiello/Getty Images Roberto Vannacci, candidate of the Lega party for the next European elections, and the Italian Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, Matteo Salvini, attend a political meeting organized by the Lega political party for the next European elections, in Piazza Santi Apostoli, on June 6, 2024 in Rome, ItalyAntonio Masiello/Getty Images

Matteo Salvini’s rhetoric has been matched by his leading candidate, army general Roberto Vannacci.

Salvini’s main candidate, Roberto Vannacci, has had the same effect. The army general was fired after self-publishing a book in which he expressed homophobic and racist views. Since he became a League candidate, he has redoubled his bet.

Barely a day goes by without the media amplifying Roberto Vannacci’s messages. That could translate into votes for the League, but if not then problems could arise for Salvini, whose leadership is beginning to be questioned.

The same scrutiny will be applied to the results of the leftist Democratic Party (PD), whose leader Elly Schlein hopes to match the 19% of the votes she received in the 2019 elections if she wants to remain in office.

Further to the left, all eyes will be on Ilaria Salis, a self-proclaimed anti-fascist activist who has been detained in Hungary since 2023 accused of participating in the beating of three far-right militants and of being part of a criminal association. She now runs on the Left/Greens platform.

Italians will be able to cast their vote until Sunday evening, when the elections in the rest of Europe have already concluded.

The Netherlands voted on Thursday and Dutch exit poll suggested tight race between a left and green alliance, well ahead of the Freedom Party of the anti-Islamist populist Geert Wilders. An estimated turnout of 47% was the highest since 1989, refuting any suggestion that voters had grown tired of politics.

Irish and Czech voters went to the polls on Friday.

Slovakia, Latvia and Malta also vote on Saturday, while the Czechs vote on a second day.

Several Czech parties from different political groups in the European Parliament have formed a joint list of candidates as a “cordon sanitaire” to counter populists from former Prime Minister Andrej Babis’ ANO party.

Germany is among the EU countries voting on Sunday, with the latest polls indicating the centre-right CDU/CSU can overtake Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party.

His party is fighting for second place with its coalition partners, the Greens, and the far-right opposition party, Alternative for Germany (AfD). The AfD has been involved in a series of recent scandals over foreign interference, espionage and accusations of Nazism.

Outgoing EU Parliament

The outgoing EU Parliament

In France, which has the second-largest number of MEPs in parliament after Germany, President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party is also competing for second place with a resurgent Socialist Party under the leadership of frontrunner Raphaël Glucksmann.

Both parties trail Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN), which consistently polls more than 30%.

Macron called for high turnout in a television interview on the penultimate day of the campaign and warned that “Europe has never been so threatened” by the advance of the right.

Other leaders have struck a similarly urgent tone ahead of the EU vote.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who is recovering from an operation at his home following last month’s assassination attempt, returned to the political scene this week with a timely attack on Slovakia’s liberal oppositionthe “anti-government media” and foreign-funded NGOs that he claimed had created a climate of hate and intolerance that made the shooting possible.

Hungarian Viktor Orban – who has been the staunchest opponent of EU support for Ukraine – warned that Europe was reaching the point of no return in terms of preventing the conflict from spreading beyond Ukraine’s borders, and attacked the what “the EU” called “war psychosis”.

The polls in Italy will be the last to close at 11:00 p.m. (9:00 p.m. GMT) on Sunday.

A projection will be published shortly after that will combine the first provisional results for some EU member states with estimates for the rest.

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