Legalised brothels, flat tax and a repeal of 400 laws: Here's what Italy's political parties are promising ahead of this week's election

(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
  • Italy’s general election is now less than a week away, with the result still hugely unclear.
  • 2018’s election has largely been focused on the core issue of immigration, while taxation and social reforms are also high on the agenda.
  • Business Insider took a look at some of the more off the wall policies being pledged by Italy’s major parties ahead of the vote.

LONDON – With Italy’s general election now less than a week away, the outcome is no less clear than it has been in the months leading up to the vote.

The centre-left coalition of Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party, the populist Five Star Movement, and the right wing bloc comprising Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the far-right Lega Nord could all end up running the Italian government in the coming weeks, but what do they stand for?

2018’s election has largely been focused on the core issue of immigration, while taxation and social reforms are also high on the agenda.

“The narrative of the main parties and the interest of voters is mainly focused on immigration policies and on the improvement of the welfare and tax regime,” Giovanni Montalti, an analyst at Swiss bank UBS said in a recent note.

Obviously, all the parties have positions on a wide spectrum of issues, from the economy, to immigration, to the EU, but Business Insider decided to pick out some of the major policies of the four major parties with a chance to win big next Sunday.

Five Star Movement

As the party most likely to have the highest vote percentage, Five Star stands a reasonable chance of being in government this year – especially considering that it has recently moderated its stance about entering a coalition with other parties.

Until recently Five Star was strongly eurosceptic, and believed in pulling Italy out of the eurozone. As it has gained popularity, that stance has softened, and the party’s leader, Luigi Di Maio has publicly said he does not believe Italy should leave the euro.

“I believe it is no longer the right moment for Italy to leave the euro,” he said in January.

Previously Five Star backed a referendum on leaving the euro, but Di Maio now describes that as “a last resort which I hope to avoid.”

Five Star doesn’t conform to the classical left-right ideological spectrum, preferring a pragmatic approach to policy making. Much of its early success has been down to its highly critical attitude towards Italy’s establishment parties.

The party is anti-immigration to the extent that it wants “an immediate stop to the sea-taxi service” that brings migrants to Europe. This has been a particular problem for Italy, as migrants fleeing North Africa by boat often make landfall on Italian soil before anything else.

Five Star has also pledged to repeal as many as 400 laws in its first year in power if elected, which it says will simplify the country’s tax system and remove unnecessary bureaucracy.

One of its most controversial policies is the repeal of a law that makes it illegal for parents to not vaccinate their children. Di Maio and the party have said they do not want to force parents into vaccinations.

Democratic Party (PD)

As the party in power, the PD is running on a fairly conservative policy agenda, based around the fact that it has overseen an Italian economy growing strongly and that has a falling rate of unemployment.

It is also strongly pro-European, with leader Renzi forging a strong alliance with German chancellor Angela Merkel during his time as prime minister.

One of its standout policies, however, is to abolish the TV licence levied on Italians. The licence pays for Rai, Italy’s equivalent of the BBC.

Forza Italia

Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right party is in favour of a low-tax regime, with tax cuts one of the policy areas where it is most focused.

Berlusconi believes in the introduction of a flat tax – where everyone pays a single tax encompassing everything from income tax to sales taxes to car tax – something that has been widely criticised by opponents.

Matteo Renzi, for example, said that such a tax could cost the Italian economy €95 billion, according to The Local.

Berlusconi’s party is also strongly anti-immigration, with Berlusconi recently saying immigration is a “social bomb that is ready to explode,” in a recent TV interview where he also said that “migrants live off of trickery and crime.”

Lega Nord

The Lega Nord has many policies that are not unusual for parties on the far-right – most obviously in its tough anti-immigration stance. It has pledged to effectively close Italy’s borders, as well as to repatriate 100,000 immigrants per year.

It also, however, has some more arcane policies, including the decriminalisation of brothels – something the party’s leadership believes could help raise taxes.

“If this business surfaces it would be hugely significant for the state and local authorities, to collect enough resources not only to avoid tax hikes but also to reduce a series of tax levies,” Massimo Bitonci, a senior figure in the party said in 2013.

“There is no point in hiding behind hypocrisy and taboo; prostitution is a phenomenon that has always existed.”

“I’m not talking of having messy brothels like in the past or putting women behind a shop window,” Matteo Salvini, the party’s leader, said last year. Salvini believes that legalising brothels will not only increase tax revenues, but could also boost Italy’s birth rate.

Lega Nord also favours a tough stance on crime, and wants to improve relations with Russia.

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