Today in Italian politics: The election campaign has turned violent

In the run-up to the Italian general election on March 4th, The Local is bringing you a daily round up of who's done what and why in the fast-moving world of Italian politics.

Today in Italian politics: The election campaign has turned violent
Election posters in Rome. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Days to go until Italy votes: 11

The election campaign is heating up, so before we dive in, take a moment to be mesmerized by this soothing clip of pasta being born. 

That's better. Remember you can read Tuesday's daily politics recap here and catch up on all our election coverage so far here.


  • Political violence

Italy's election campaign has turned extremely nasty. After a xenophobic shooting which left six people injured in the normally peaceful town of Macerata, there have been protests and rallies across the country organized both by far-right parties and anti-fascist demonstrators. A minority of the demonstrations on both sides have turned violent, with several clashes and injuries, and two personal attacks within 24 hours.

In Palermo, the local leader of the extreme-right Forza Nuova party was bound and beaten in a brutal assault on Tuesday evening. Read more here.

And in Perugia, a man was reportedly stabbed while putting up campaign posters for Potere al Popolo (Power to the People), a coalition made up mainly of communist parties. He is not in a serious condition, according to Repubblica. But now the far-right party CasaPound claims that its members were the ones injured in what they called “an attack in cold blood”.

  • PD breakaways

Rebellion's in the air in South Tyrol, where 14 members of the Democratic Party (PD) announced today that they would split off in protest over candidates they say were imposed on them from above. 

The South Tyrol 14 say that the party's two candidates in Bolzano were “parachuted” in by PD bigwigs over the heads of local members. That was a criticism heard in more places than one when the PD announced its list, which seems to feature an awful lot of pals of its candidate for premier, Matteo Renzi. 

  • Fascist salute gets the OK from Italy's top court

This decision from Italy's Court of Cassation might seem surprising since parliament voted to outlaw fascist propaganda last September. The alleged perpetrator of the Macerata shooting reportedly made a fascist salute after carrying out his attack, and Forza Nuova activists sparked clashes at a demonstration after making the gesture at police two weeks ago.

This is not illegal. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP


But two supporters of the Brothers of Italy (that's the smallest partner in Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right coalition, led by Giorgia Meloni) have now been acquitted by the country's top court. They gave the salute in 2014, but the court ruled that the gesture was permissible if it was “commemorative” and non-violent.

  • 'A party of unrepresentables' 

Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi has been criticizing the Five Star Movement again, calling them a “party of unrepresentables” and “the ex-honest ones”.

The statement, which has echoes of Hillary Clinton's comments labelling some of Donald Trump's supporters “deplorable”, was made in reference to the recent scandals that have engulfed the party that paints itself as Italy's anti-establishment alternative. The M5S has been forced to expel several of its candidates over links to Freemasonry, and failure to follow a party rule ordering them to pay back a chunk of their political salaries into a fund for small businesses.

  • 'Never say never'

Is it just us, or is this phrase becoming the official slogan of the election? Now it's Silvio Berlusconi who's being coy, suggesting that candidates kicked out of the M5S (see above) could find a home in a future centre-right government.

“You never say no to those who say 'I'll sign up for your programme',” said Berlusconi, when asked if he'd accept the fallen stars. But the four-time PM immediately added: “I don't think we'll need them because we'll have a majority.” 

  • … no, but seriously, never

It's a no from the League's Matteo Salvini, however: Berlusconi's junior coalition partner proved himself just as hostile to the “refugees” from the M5S as he is to real asylum seekers, saying he didn't want the centre-right coalition to take in the Five Star Movement's “political exiles”. He also categorically ruled out a coalition with the M5S.

It's just the latest in a long list of disagreements between Salvini and Berlusconi: during the course of the campaign, the two have contradicted each other on everything from Italy's relationship with Europe to tax rates, whether to scrap the euro to who should be prime minister.

So far apart have they kept on the campaign trail, in fact, that journalists have been struggling to find photos of all three coalition heads – Berlusconi, Salvini and Meloni – together. 

This is literally the only one we have. Photo: Livio Anticoli/AFP

In response, Salvini today invited the other two to join him in a united front at a campaign rally in Rome on March 1st. Get your cameras ready, because depending on how the vote goes three days later, it might just be the last time they stand to be in the same room with each other. 

  • Fact check: can you really stop migrants trying to come to Italy?

“Highly unlikely,” says Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, whose Democratic Party has been the one in power throughout Europe's migration crisis. 

But that hasn't stopped nigh everyone on the centre-right promising to do so within minutes of being elected. “Everyone's free to tell you what they like, especially during an election campaign,” Gentiloni said today.

“The real challenge isn't to promise to eliminate these flows of migrants but to transform them from a phenomenon run by criminal networks into something safe, manageable, compatible with and even useful to our society.” 

EXPLAINED: Who's who?

Italian politics are full of characters – so many that sometimes it's hard to keep track. Sure, everyone knows Berlusconi, but could you pick Gentiloni out in a crowd?

If you're struggling to put names to faces, check our profile of the main players in Italy's election

GRAPHIC OF THE DAY: How Italy's election looks to the rest of the world

Ok, so it's not entirely accurate, but this “election guide” currently doing the rounds on social media isn't far off the mark either. 

Shared by Fabrizio Goria.

If you want to fact check, you can cross-reference with our introductions to Forza Italia, the Democratic Party, the Five Star Movement, the League and Italy's smaller parties

Did we miss something?

If there are any areas of Italian politics you'd like The Local to explain or take an in-depth look at, get in touch at [email protected], or via Facebook or Twitter.  

By Catherine Edwards and Jessica Phelan