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Italy's undecideds: Can they reverse far-right's electoral gains on Sunday?

  • Ylenia Gostoli
  • 25 Sep 2022

Most young Italians unable to decide who to vote for are on the left of the political spectrum, where they feel unrepresented. The question is how many of them will still step out to cast their vote on Sunday.

Many young Italians - like their peers in other European countries - are finding it difficult to come to terms with a shifting political reality amidst Europe's gas crisis and other social and economic troubles. ( AFP )

Many young Italians, especially those leaning on the left of the political spectrum, are undecided, unable to make up their minds about which party they should vote for as Italy goes to snap elections on Sunday.

According to a study published by the Rome-based SWG research institute, the percentage of young people between the ages of 18 to 24 who could abstain is between 34 and 38 percent.

“I had some trouble choosing who to vote for,” Beatrice Fiore, an 18-year-old student tells TRT World in Rome. “I don’t feel fully represented by any of the parties or lists.”

Politicians from across the political divide have tried to woo young voters - at times at the expense of being ridiculed for being completely out of touch with younger, first-time voters. 

“I am undecided between the two parties,” said 19-year-old Ludovica Marsella, a university student from Rome. “I will decide between today and tomorrow,” she adds, reflecting the last-minute anxiety of many of the undecided that analysts say could eventually set Sunday up for a surprise.

“Even if it wasn’t for the current situation, I think it would have been necessary to go vote,” she adds, “abstaining because you claim you don’t feel represented by anyone seems a bit of a fallacy to me. Nobody will be able to identify [with a party] 100 percent, but I think that a good 90 percent is enough.”

It’s the first time since World War II that forces previously relegated to the fringes of mainstream politics can come to power in Italy. A coalition led by the far-right Brothers of Italy party appears to be on course to win, making its leader Giorgia Meloni the country's first female prime minister.

Meloni, 45, leads Brothers of Italy (Fdl), a populist party that has moved up the opinion polls amid widespread dissatisfaction over economic and political policies. 

As a member of the youth wing of the National Alliance (AN) party, Meloni once called Italy’s former dictator Benito Mussolini “a good politician”. 

In recent years, she has tried hard to disassociate herself from Mussolini and what he has come to symbolise. 

Meloni was able to get the attention of many Italians when she opted to sit in the opposition as former Prime Minister Mario Draghi governed the country, whose economy was on its knees after the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Opinion polls have placed her party to bag 25 percent of the votes – up from only 4 percent votes which it garnered in the last election in 2018. 

According to the last available opinion polls published on September 10, 41 percent of Italian voters remain undecided about who they are going to vote for or cast a ballot at all. 

This attitude surfaces at a time when the left-wing camp has splintered  into smaller parties and coalitions, making it difficult for Meloni’s main contender, the centre-left Democratic Party leader Enrico Letta to mount any formidable challenge. 

Many young Italians - like their peers in other European countries - are finding it difficult to come to terms with a shifting political reality amidst Europe's energy crisis and other social and economic troubles.  

They don’t identify themselves with the Brothers of Italy’s slogan “God, homeland and family” but at the same time see mainstream political parties failing at speaking about their aspirations.

“I think we should even out the inequalities that exist, instead of making the gap bigger which is what certain parties are setting out to do,” says Beatrice, who supports the centre-left camp and will be voting for the first time. “Even one extra vote counts.”

“The young people of today are different from the youth of the 1960s,” Carlo Ruzza, a professor of political sociology at the University of Trento, tells TRT World.

“They no longer believe in the narrative of polarisation that [centre-left leader] Letta is somehow trying to promote,” he says, adding that with youth unemployment and poverty at record highs, young people will cast their vote according to those priorities. 

But unlike millennials who often seem disinterested in politics, under 25s are also the generation of climate strike participants – a significant dynamic that signals a greater youth engagement with politics. 

“I am still trying to decide between a couple of lists,” says Marzio Chirico, a 24-year-old psychology student, who was at a Fridays for Future climate protest in Rome before the poll, “but I will definitely vote.”

“Should things go in a certain way on Sunday and should we end up going back in time one hundred years, we certainly do not expect that our demands will be heard.”

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