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A right-wing coalition victory in Italy this month could trigger a return to the economic policies that contributed to a surge in the country’s bond yields and helped fuel a sovereign debt crisis a decade ago, said former prime minister Enrico Letta.
“I find it surreal and unbelievable that Italians would bring back in power exactly the same people that ten years ago brought Italy to the brink of bankruptcy,” Letta told Bloomberg News in an interview at the Ambrosetti Forum in Cernobbio. “It took 10 years to fix Italy after it.”
So far, Letta’s warnings are finding little traction among Italians. His Democratic Party is trailing Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy in the latest polls, and Meloni is the front-runner to become premier at the helm of a right-wing coalition that also includes Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Matteo Salvini’s League. It’s the same coalition that governed Italy during the debt crisis of 2011, when Berlusconi was premier and Meloni a junior minister.
“Berlusconi, Tremonti, Meloni are the three leaders — four, if you include Salvini — of that same coalition,” Letta said. “We are trying to warn Italians to have a long memory; it’s already happened.”
Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s finance minister at the time, is now running for Brothers of Italy and could be given the same post after the Sept. 25 vote.
Meloni, who started her political career in Italy’s post-fascist party, has been working to reassure the US and European Union countries that Italy’s international positioning won’t change if she becomes prime minister. While her party was the only major group opposing outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi, it supported sending military aid to Ukraine and has vowed to respect EU budget rules.
Read More: Italy’s Far-Right Favorite Aims to Stick to EU Budget Rules
Letta said conciliatory statements aimed at a broader audience are in contrast with the populist rhetoric the far-right leader uses domestically on issues from migration to the civil rights. The Democrats have been in power for most of the past 10 years and were Draghi’s staunchest supporters .
Read More: Italy’s Right Has an Orban-Style Super Majority Within Reach
Heading into the election, Italians appear most concerned about rising inflation and the prospect of energy rationing this winter. Polls indicate sinking support for sanctions against Russia and for Italy’s role in the international coalition backing Ukraine resistance against Moscow’s invasion.
To bridge the gap, Letta said he wants to focus on climate change, creating more stable jobs for young people and expanding rights.
“Rarely have I seen such a clear difference in the ideas” put forward by parties ahead of an election, Letta said.