Berlusconi, Maroni join forces for election


Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and Northern League leader Roberto Maroni yesterday confirmed they had concluded an electoral pact in the run-up to next month’s general election.

In order to bring his long-time political ally back on board, however, Mr Berlusconi has had to agree he will not be the centre-right’s candidate for prime minister.

Given the federalist Northern League has been a constant coalition partner of Mr Berlusconi, right from his original “descent” into politics in 1994, this electoral pact always seemed likely.

However, Mr Berlusconi’s vicissitudes in recent years, his involvement in a series of financial and sex scandals and the failure of his governments to deliver fundamental federalist measures such as fiscal autonomy have alienated many League followers.

That alienation voiced itself all over the internet yesterday, with many League supporters arguing Mr Maroni had made the deal only to win support for his own campaign for the presidency of the Lombardy region. As for Mr Maroni, he struck a note of realpolitik in a news conference yesterday, saying: “If we had run on our own . . . we were guaranteed to lose”.

Opinion polls

Opinion polls give the Northern League a 5 per cent share of the vote, too small to win seats in the Senate, where the minimum threshold vote for a single party is 8 per cent. The same polls suggest Mr Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party and the Northern League combined may return 25 per cent of the vote.

Presenting the pact yesterday, Mr Maroni stressed the importance of the fact that Mr Berlusconi will not be the centre-right’s candidate for prime minister. Mr Berlusconi, however, continues in the ill-defined role of centre-right “leader”. The question may be academic given that it seems most unlikely the centre right will win.

The most recent opinion polls see the centre-left Democratic Party out in front with 40 per cent of votes, as opposed to 25 per cent for the centre-right and 12 per cent for the centre-ground “Civic List” of outgoing prime minister Mario Monti.

In his first ever QA session on Twitter last Saturday, Mr Monti said one of his first acts in government next time would be to change Italy’s electoral legislation.