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Italy general election 2022: voting enters final hours – live

Key events

Just minutes to go until the polls close and the first exit poll is expected.

My Guardian colleagues have launched this interactive graphic where you’ll be able to see the results as they come in.

Meloni votes…finally

Angela Giuffrida

Giorgia Meloni votes at a polling station in Rome. Photograph: Yara Nardi/Reuters

Giorgia Meloni has arrived to cast her vote at a polling booth at a school in Rome after postponing her appointment from this morning, reportedly due to a throng of journalists who had been waiting for her.

The change of plan had left the press baffled throughout the day. Meloni will then join the rest of her Brothers of Italy squad for an election party at Parco Dei Principi hotel…where a throng of around 400 journalists are waiting for her.

Lorenzo Tondo

Lorenzo Tondo

Why is Italy on verge of electing its first far-right leader since the second world war?

Giorgia Meloni’s political success owes much to her decision to keep her party out of the Mario Draghi’s cross-party government. The move cemented her as an opposition voice and has given her the leading position in a rightwing electoral coalition tipped to win this election.

But still, how can it be that Italy, which lived through Mussolini’s bloody regime and passed discriminatory laws against its Jewish citizens, is close to electing as prime minister the leader of a party with with its roots in neo-fascism and with some of its members performing the fascist salute during public commemorations?

To find some answers, one must go back to the immediate aftermath of the second world war, when the first issue for Italy to address was national unity. The toppling of Mussolini in 1943 was followed by bloody civil war between a Nazi-backed puppet state and the partisans of the Italian resistance, so when peace came to Europe, fears of aggravating civil tensions overrode the purging of fascists from Italian institutions and prosecuting them for war crimes.

While the Nuremberg trials against prominent members of the Nazi party began in Germany in November 1946, Italy, in part concerned about growing numbers of Communists, had from June of that year run an amnesty programme, releasing thousands of fascists from prison.

Giorgio Almirante, a culture minister in the Nazis’ short-lived puppet state, founded the Italian Social Movement (MSI) with former members of the Italian Fascist party in this climate of tolerance. By 1948, three neo-fascists sat in the Italian parliament.

It is from this heritage that the Brothers of Italy would later emerge. Brothers of Italy today shares its party logo, an Italian tricolour in the form of a flame, with the now defunct (MSI). Many members of Fratelli d’Italia are former members of MSI. Simply put, Italy is a country that never came to terms with its fascist past.

This is an interesting Twitter thread by Daniele Albertazzi, professor of politics at the University of Surrey, featuring the veteran Italy-watcher, formerly of this parish, John Hooper.

If you think that this gentleman + the Italian Social Movement + Bossi’s League in 1994, and then three more times after that… = a”more moderate” govt than what may emerge from the election today… then yes, Italy is turning right. https://t.co/h6HPnqXg8e

— Daniele Albertazzi (@DrAlbertazziUK) September 25, 2022

Albertazzi is arguing against the idea that a government formed by the Brothers of Italy-led alliance would be the most rightwing Italy has had since the second world war.

He cites as an example the government that sprouted from the 1994 election – a coalition of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, Umberto Bossi’s Northern League and the National Alliance, successor of the post-fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI).

But Hooper disagrees.

I disagree. And for the following reasons: (1) Berlusconi’s party in 1994 had a strong liberal wing that has since withered (most recently with the resignations of Brunetta, Carfagna etc.)…

— John Hooper (@john_hooper) September 25, 2022

(2) Bossi’s League was a completely different beast to Salvini’s. Bossi clashed repeatedly with Fini of the National Alliance (not the MSI), and yet …

— John Hooper (@john_hooper) September 25, 2022

(3) the National Alliance was sufficiently moderate, at least by the 2010s by which time it was part of the PdL, that Meloni & Co. felt they had to quit to form a party that conserved the old traditions of the MSI (whose symbol they adopted)

— John Hooper (@john_hooper) September 25, 2022

If you haven’t had enough of Giorgia Meloni yet, here’s another clip from the Guardian’s Paul Lewis. As part of his series on rising populism, Paul sat down with her and Donald Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon in 2018.

It did not go well.

(The Meloni interview starts at around 12.30 minutes in.)

Lorenzo Tondo

Lorenzo Tondo

Bruno Segre, 104, a former Italian partisan and lawyer, is not scared by Giorgia Meloni, who in a recently surfaced video from 1996 said of the fascist leader:

Mussolini was a good politician. Everything he did he did for Italy.

Before going to vote at the local polling station in Turin, Segre told the newspaper la Repubblica:

The Constitution will defend us (from fascism). I am not afraid of this right and not even of Meloni, who I would define as an illiterate of democracy.

Roberto Saviano, the Italian essayist and author of Gomorrah, has written in the Guardian this weekend that “Meloni appears the most dangerous Italian political figure not because she explicitly evokes fascism or the practices of the black-shirted squadristi (militia), but because of her ambiguity.”

For more of that ambiguity, compare and contrast these two videos.

First is a clip that the Brothers of Italy leader released in August, apparently aimed mainly at the foreign press. Speaking in English, a besuited Meloni declares:

The Italian right has handed fascism over [to] history for decades now, unambiguously condemning the suppression of democracy and the ignominious anti-Jewish laws.

The second video is footage from a rally Meloni spoke at, with rather more belligerence, in Andalucia alongside Vox, the Spanish far-right party, earlier this summer.

Yes to the natural family. No to LGBT lobbies. Yes to sexual identity. No to gender ideology. Yes to the culture of life. No to the abyss of death.

It continues it that vein, and it’s because of performances like this that many voters fear a re-eruption of culture wars around issues such as abortion if Meloni becomes PM. (She has insisted, however, she does not intend to change Italy’s abortion law.)

Even as Enrico Letta, leader of the centre-left Partito Democratico, implores supporters to not give up hope, the soul-searching has already begun behind the scenes, writes my colleague Julian Coman in today’s Observer.

The PD, for those who haven’t been following the intricacies, is running with a smattering of small parties. It has stayed away from the Five Star Movement, and the centrist parties of Matteo Renzi (Italia Viva) and Carlo Calenda (Azione).

And, according to the polls, it simply won’t muster enough support to beat the rightwing alliance of Meloni, Salvini and Berlusconi.

One voter Julian spoke to gave her analysis:

The PD has become a middle-class, professional party and lost touch with the working class. There is an anger driving these great populist waves in Italy – for Salvini and now Meloni – and it’s to do with economic inequality. The left needs to persuade them back on board or it will be stuck.

Incidentally, I interviewed Letta when he was prime minister in 2013. He was warning about the threat of a populist wave surging across Europe. In that instance he was talking, locally, about the M5S. If you’d told him then that his chief foe would be Meloni, then a fringe player on the Italian political scene, I’m not sure he would have believed you.

Lorenzo Tondo

Lorenzo Tondo

All the polls indicate that Giorgia Meloni will emerge victorious. But there could be one spanner in the works: Giuseppe Conte, leader of the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) and former prime minister.

In the final days of the electoral campaign, Conte led a formidable comeback, especially in southern Italy, where he is confident of the support of its 2.5 million inhabitants living beneath the poverty line.

At the moment, this group of people can benefit from the so-called “citizens’ income”, a basic income, which was a flagship M5S policy rolled out in 2019 when the party governed Italy.

Basic income has been one of the most discussed topics in the electoral campaign, with many critics pointing out that it has not effectively helped people to find jobs. The left wants to modify it, M5S wants to uphold it, and the hard-right, led by Meloni, wants to eliminate it.

That position has provoked fury among recipients of the basic income, who in Sicily and Campania represent 15% of voters. And Meloni knows it, issuing a video plea to “the South” on Friday, insisting:

It would have been easy in this electoral campaign to go the cities of the south and promised everyone money, like others have done. We haven’t done that. It would have been easy, but it wouldn’t have been serious.

If Conte does well enough, Meloni risks having to share an equal number of seats in the senate with opposition parties. And that would be a serious problem for her.

Turnout down on last election

Lorenzo Tondo

Lorenzo Tondo

Election day in Italy has been marked by long queues at polling stations with thousands of people waiting an hour or more to vote. Giorgia Meloni has postponed her vote because of the crowds, and Silvio Berlusconi remarked he had “never seen” such long queues (and he’s seen a lot of elections.)

But it doesn’t seem that the crowds are related to turnout. So far, that is eight percent lower than in the last election in 2018. By 7pm 51.25% of eligible voters had voted for the lower house or Camera dei deputati. In 2018, turnout at 7pm was 59.25%.

According to media reports, the sluggishness is due to an “anti-tampering sticker” devised to counter fraud. The sticker has an alphanumeric code and is applied to a corner of the ballot. An authorised worker at the polling station removes it before inserting the ballot in the ballot box.

Matteo Salvini, Silvio Berlusconi and Giorgia Meloni attend the final rally of the rightwing coalition in central Rome, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Matteo Salvini, Silvio Berlusconi and Giorgia Meloni attend the final rally of the rightwing coalition in central Rome, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) Photograph: Alessandra Tarantino/AP

My colleague Angela Giuffrida has written a fascinating analysis of the challenges awaiting Giorgia Meloni should the rightwing alliance triumph at the polls. Aside from her relative inexperience at top-level politics, Angela writes, there’s the not-insignificant issue of Matteo Salvini…

The alliance has endeavoured to put on a united front, but Salvini, whose popularity has vastly dwindled amid Meloni’s rise, finds the prospect of her becoming prime minister, a role he has long coveted, unbearable. In October last year, after Brothers of Italy managed to draw votes away from the League in its northern strongholds in local elections, a secret recording revealed Salvini hitting out at Meloni, calling her a “pain in the ass”.

The rivalry between the pair has been simmering since then, and while they share several common policies, they recently clashed over one of the most crucial themes of the moment – sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. Meloni has pledged that her government would continue to support the sanctions, while Salvini has criticised them for “bringing Italy to its knees”.

Lorenzo Tondo

Lorenzo Tondo

A photo of an elderly voter’s anti-Meloni protest sign has gone viral in Italy this weekend. Seated next to his cane on a bench in Rome, the sign he holds up reads:

I was born under Mussolini. I don’t want to die under Meloni. God help us!”

Pope urges Italians to welcome refugees

Pope Francis has chosen today to remind us all of his strong belief in the importance of welcoming and nurturing refugees and migrants.

Pope Francis celebrates Holy Mass in the southern Italian city of Matera on 25 September 2022. EPA/VATICAN MEDIA
Pope Francis celebrates Holy Mass in the southern Italian city of Matera on 25 September 2022. EPA/VATICAN MEDIA Photograph: Vatican Media Handout/EPA

My colleague Lorenzo Tondo reports that, at the end of an open-air mass in the city of Matera earlier today, the pope said:

“Migrants are to be welcomed, accompanied, promoted and integrated. Let us renew our commitment to building the future in accordance with God’s plan: a future in which migrants and refugees may live in peace and with dignity.

Francis made no direct reference to the election, adds Lorenzo, but his message “rang loud and clear.”

Migration has been a central theme in the electoral campaign of extreme right parties, led by the leader of Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, who once said Italians needed to “repatriate the migrants back to their countries and then sink the boats that rescued them”.

He adds:

Meloni… said that if she becomes prime minister, she intends to put in place a naval blockade in the Mediterranean to stop migration to Italy.

Some nuts and bolts about tonight.

We expect exit polls shortly after voting closes at 11pm local time (10pm UK time). Caution: while these were pretty accurate in 2018’s general election, they have not always proved reliable.

The first projections (based on partial results) for the senate (upper house) should start to come in from 11.50pm local time, according to Ansa. You’ll have to wait a bit longer for the same projections for the lower house, however: they’re expected around 2am.

My colleague Jon Henley has written this helpful explainer of the election here, including a reminder of how we got here (the populist Five Star Movement pulled the plug on Mario Draghi’s coalition in July).

Key points:

  • There are 400 seats up for grabs in the lower house and 200 in the senate- a much smaller parliament, all told, than before. (The Italians voted in a 2020 referendum to cut the number of parliamentarians from more than 900 to 600.)

  • The rightwing coalition, led by the Brothers of Italy, includes Matteo Salvini’s far-right League, and the rightwing Forza Italia, led by young rising star Silvio Berlusconi.

  • The PD, the main centre-left party, is running with the support of some minor, leftwing, pro-European and green parties. The M5S is running alone, led by the former prime minister Giuseppe Conte.

If you want to get a flavour of Giorgia Meloni’s political style, here’s her election day Instagram post.

“September 25th. Enough said,” she says, looking deeply into the camera and winking. She also happens to be carrying a pair of melons… because melons, meloni, geddit?

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If you want to get more of a sense of Meloni the politician, have a read of this by my colleague Angela Giuffrida who visited Garbatella, the neighbourhood of Rome where Meloni grew up, and went to see what used to be the local branch of the neofascist Italian Social Movement (MSI)‘s youth wing.

Undeterred by the at times violent confrontations between young left and rightwing militants in the early 1990s, and the messages to “kill the fascists” daubed on the walls of Garbatella, Meloni knocked on its door aged 15 and signed up,” writes Angela.

Those in the neighbourhood who have recollections of the young Meloni, whose Brothers of Italy party emerged from the National Alliance, a descendant of MSI, say the toxic political atmosphere at the time was formative.”

It’s election day in Italy

Lizzy Davies

Good evening, buonasera and welcome to all who are following tonight’s Italian election results. I’m Lizzy Davies and I – along with Guardian colleagues Angela Giuffrida and Lorenzo Tondo in Italy – will be bringing you all the latest from this potentially landmark vote.

If we are to believe the polls, this election is likely to produce the most rightwing government Italy has had since the second world war. A coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, a party with neofascist origins, is tipped to secure a sizeable victory in both houses of parliament while taking between 44 and 47% of the vote.

If that happens, Meloni, 45, is the frontrunner to become prime minister – Italy’s first far-right leader since Benito Mussolini. Not that she likes the comparison, of course. Meloni has insisted that the Italian right consigned fascism to history decades ago, and has compared Brothers of Italy to the UK Tory party and the US Republicans.

Of course, the polls aren’t always right, and on Friday Enrico Letta, leader of the centre-left Partito Democratico (PD), urged supporters to make a final push, declaring: “A comeback is possible.”

But is it, really? Stay tuned to find out.

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