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Calenda, Renzi reach deal on Azione-IV election tie-up

'Third pole' in Italian politics created by ex-minister, ex-PM

(ANSA) - ROME, AUG 11 - Former industry minister Carlo Calenda and former premier Matteo Renzi reached a deal Thursday to team up their two centrist parties, Azione (Action) and Italia Viva (IV), in a so-called 'third pole' of Italian politics for the September 25 general election.
    "If you place your trust in this third pole we'll try to stop the victory of the right and left on the basis of the agenda of (outgoing premier Mario) Draghi," whom they will try to persuade to stand as premier, a highly unlikely prospect, Calenda said shortly before the official announcement of the pact.
    Renzi posted a video of him passing to a soccer player who scores a goal saying "assists are also useful in politics".
    Calenda also predicted that former allies the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and the populist 5-Star Movement (M5S), which started the push to bring down Draghi last month, scotching its alliance with the PD, would get back together "two minutes after the elections".
    Calenda also commended hard right Brothers of Italy (FdI) leader Giorgia Meloni, on course to becoming Italy's first woman and first post-fascist prime minister, for condemning Fascism in a video message to the foreign press on Wednesday.
    The so-called 'third pole', between the opposing centre-right and centre-left blocs, is currently polling at around 4% but Calenda is optimistic about grabbing votes from ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia (FI) party, which has a somewhat similar electorate.
    Calenda on Sunday pulled out of an electoral pact with the PD, which Renzi once led, after the PD teamed up with smaller leftwing and liberal parties including Italian Left (SI) and Green Europe (EV), spurring Renzi to take up the baton for the potential third bloc in Italian politics.
    "We are willing to join the team because the Third Pole would be the great surprise of the elections and only a strong third pole would be able to ask (former European Central Bank chief) Draghi to stay on in the premier's office", said the IV chief, who has been shunned by his former party the PD and its leader, the former premier he brought down in 2014, Enrico Letta.
    Both Calenda and Renzi are campaigning on continuing the reformist agenda of Draghi, whose national unity government was brought down last month by a rebellion spearheaded by the M5S of his predecessor as premier, Giuseppe Conte.
    The M5S boycotted a key confidence vote on a cost of living decree filed by Draghi, because it contained a new waste to energy plant in Rome that was anathema to Conte's group, leading to Fi and the rightwing League also pulling support from Draghi last month.
    As a result, the M5S's budding partnership with the PD was also scuppered, leading Letta to cast around for other potential candidates for his self-styled "broad field" on the centre left of Italian politics.
    Renzi was never invited to join it but Letta was banking on Calenda's centrist appeal and has now blamed him for, in his words, "consigning the country to the right".
    However, a post-election match-up between the centre left and the third pole is still possible, while one with the M5S is also a possibility.
    IV is polling at around 3%, about 1% more than Azione now that Calenda's group has split from former ally More Europe (+E) after the latter decided to stick to the electoral deal with the PD.
    The third pole thus has around 5-6% of the vote, far behind the PD's 23.4% which combined with the SI and EV's 3.4% would put the current centre-left alliance on just under 30% of voting intentions, including the extra 2%-plus from Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio's new Civic Commitment (IC) group, the latest splinter from the once powerful M5S.
    Even if the centre left were to team up in that unlikely post-election alliance with the centrist third pole, or also with the M5S, their combined score would still be short of the opposing centre right alliance's combined current polling tally of almost 45%.
    That alliance, spearheaded by Meloni who has benefitted from being the only major party leader who opposed Draghi, is tipped to take power on September 25.
    The coalition also features the far-right League of anti-migrant former interior minister Matteo Salvini, which is currently polling at around 12.5%, second to FdI's 23.8% and compared to the 8% currently enjoyed by three-time ex-premier and media mogul Berlusconi's FI.
    Salvini repeated Tuesday that Meloni would be premier if her party gets one vote more than the League, which appears a certainty right now.
    President Sergio Mattarella is expected to tap the leader of the winning bloc as premier-candidate. (ANSA).
   

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