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“Late entrant to Italian poll calls for lying to stop” – The Times su Emma Bonino

“One of Italy’s best loved women has made a successful late entry into the country’s frenzied election campaign with an unusual message for her male rivals — stop making ridiculous promises you cannot keep”.
Tom Kington, The Times – 19 febbraio 2018

One of Italy’s best loved women has made a successful late entry into the country’s frenzied election campaign with an unusual message for her male rivals — stop making ridiculous promises you cannot keep.

Emma Bonino, 69, a former foreign minister and European commissioner, has rapidly built support since she entered the contest with a new party, Più Europa, or More Europe, before the vote on March 4.

“I have seen many election campaigns where people make fanciful promises, but never like this,” said Ms Bonino, who has been a household name in Italy since she fought to legalise abortion and divorce in the 1970s.

She described the present campaign, which could see Silvio Berlusconi’s party back in government, as “sbracato”, a slang word meaning “dishevelled”, or “without trousers”.

She claimed Mr Berlusconi’s promise to repatriate 600,000 illegal migrants was the most ridiculous election pledge yet. “You need bilateral treaties to do that — you can’t just parachute them out of planes,” she said.

Wild spending promises made by the left, right and the Five Star Movement as they scramble for votes in the tight election would quietly be “blown out like candles” after the election, she predicted.

Instead, Ms Bonino is pushing for a cap on public spending to bring down Italy’s €2.2 trillion public debt, which has been a taboo subject as candidates rage against austerity policies.

“It’s not popular, Italians won’t understand, they tell me,” she said. Instead, her brand of honesty has pushed her party to 3 per cent in a matter of weeks, her approval rating is second only to Paolo Gentiloni, the prime minister, and her votes may shore up the struggling Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi after she forged an alliance with him.

“She has given people who don’t like Renzi a chance to vote for the centre-left again,” Roberto D’Alimonte, a professor of politics at Rome’s LUISS university, said.

This month, Italy’s retail trade bosses — a traditionally conservative crowd — gave Mr Berlusconi a lukewarm reception at their Rome conference before giving Ms Bonino a standing ovation when she addressed them.

Voters remember her battles in the 1990s to outlaw Italy’s roaring trade in landmines, and her bid to expose ethnic cleansing in the Balkans as a European commissioner — a job which also led to her being attacked by militias in Somalia while delivering aid and briefly jailed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

More recently she has successfully battled lung cancer and still wears a hat after chemotherapy but has refused to give up smoking.

Never one to shy away from unpopular positions, she is standing firm against growing anti-migrant sentiment in Italy, arguing that those who have come to the country should be legalised and employed to restore its hundreds of abandoned hill-top hamlets.

“Blaming episodes of xenophobia in Italy on the presence of migrants is like blaming Jews for Nazism,” she has said.

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