Italy elections: Final rallies held as campaign comes to a close

Italian parties held their final rallies on Friday ahead of a snap general election on Sunday that is expected to be won by the Giorgia Meloni-led right-wing bloc.

A trio of centre-left, populist and centrist groups held their closing meetings in different squares across Rome, underscoring their failure to forge a united electoral pact – a decision that has enormously benefitted the conservative coalition.

Friday was the last day in which political candidates could make their final push to harness votes, as Saturday marks the beginning of a period of electoral silence.

At the Democratic Party rally in Rome’s colossal Piazza del Popolo, leader Enrico Letta delivered a speech shortly after an orchestra played Bella Ciao – Italy’s World War II resistance anthem that is reviled by much of the right.

“We’ve made the choice to defend the Italian constitution,” he stated in front of a packed square. “Ours is the piazza of an Italy of hope, that looks to the future – pretty different to that of the right, of an Italy of fear.”

The day before, Piazza del Popolo had been the setting of the right-wing bloc’s own rally. Brothers of Italy leader Meloni delivered her last campaign speech in Naples on Friday and was met with protesters.

“I dressed in pink today to look less scary,” she quipped. “They are scared of us… if we take office, playtime is over, their system of power comes to an end.”

A certain degree of controversy has been surrounding the right-wing coalition recently. Matteo Salvini himself staged a brief protest in front of Rome’s European Commission headquarters on Friday, following Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen’s remarks on how the EU would deal with Italy were things to go in a “difficult direction”.

Moreover, comments made Thursday by ex-PM and right-wing candidate Silvio Berlusconi have sparked a furore, as he called the Ukraine war a “special operation” and claimed Putin had been “pushed” into invading the neighbouring country.

Among the other two political forces closing their rallies on Friday were the centrist bloc – consisting of liberal, pro-European Democratic Party splinter parties – and the Five Star Movement, which is trying to reap up votes in Italy’s poorer south by promoting a welfare initiative for the unemployed.