ROME — The 5-Star Movement appears to be staging a late comeback in southern Italy ahead of Sunday’s snap general election, building on fears a new right-wing government will cut a popular welfare allowance.
The latest opinion polls released 12 days ago suggested the right-wing coalition was on course to win a comfortable majority. But in the south of the country, where the majority of so-called “citizens’ income” recipients live, election analysts say the right could lose ground to the 5-stars.
The far-right Brothers of Italy – whose leader Giorgia Meloni is the favorite to become prime minister – said the social allowance, worth around €780 a month, should be scrapped and replaced with new measures to help those who cannot work. Another member of the right-wing coalition, the League, has called for the benefit to be scrapped and replaced with a scheme that would see recipients accept work that is useful to the community.
Some 1.6 million of the 2.4 million recipients of Citizen’s Income, introduced by the 5 Stars in 2019, are in southern Italy, or Mezzogiorno. In some southern regions, such as Calabria, the average monthly salary is around €1,000, not much more than the allowance is worth.
In some southern regions like Sicily, nearly 7% of those eligible to vote receive Citizens’ Income, which could translate to 9-10% of the vote on Sunday.
Five-star leader Giuseppe Conte campaigned in the south with the message that the other parties are “making war on the poor”.
Opinion polls can no longer be released, but analysts say a number of seats in Puglia, Campania and Sardinia, which were previously due to go to the right-wing coalition, may now be at stake.
If the 5 stars take over some of these seats, they could prevent the right from obtaining a majority in parliament and therefore prevent them from forming a coalition government without widening their alliance to the centrists.
Meloni will close his election campaign on Friday in a suburb of Naples, where nearly half a million people receive citizen income.
Roberto D’alimonte, professor of political science at Luiss University in Rome, said citizens’ income “is a major problem in the south”.
“If 5Stars do very well in the south, they could steal a number of one-round majority seats and the right could be denied a majority,” he said. “It’s very unlikely to happen as they would need to get 30-35% of the vote, but it’s not impossible as 5 stars are gaining traction all over the country and especially in the south.
“The right got it wrong [by talking about abolishing the citizens’ income] but they were responding to their constituency, which includes businesses that have struggled to find workers. Now they are backtracking. »
ELECTION TO THE NATIONAL PARLIAMENT OF ITALY POLL OF POLLS
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