ROME – Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party has been rocked by a series of defections to a new center-right political force.
The new group, Coraggio Italia – launched by the independent mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, and the center-right governor of Liguria, Giovanni Toti – said on Thursday it aimed to “give a voice to liberals and moderates alike. sufficiently represented in the center-right. “
Coraggio Italia already has 24 deputies and seven senators, including 12 from Berlusconi’s party as well as four from the 5-star movement and one from the far-right League. Of the 945 Italian parliamentarians, just under 250 changed parties during this legislature.
Brugnaro, who runs a human resources business empire with a turnover of hundreds of millions of euros and is the owner of a popular basketball team, has been compared to a Venetian Berlusconi in local media.
This is bad news for Berlusconi, 84, who has been hospitalized and released from hospital in recent months and suffered from a severe coronavirus infection last fall.
Support for Forza Italia has halved from 14% in the 2018 election to around 7% according to recent polls, with Berlusconi’s health a major concern for what is essentially a personality-based party.
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Brugnaro told a press conference in parliament on Thursday that he wished “all the best for Forza Italia and the other center-right parties”, but it was time for a new movement to take over.
“Thanks to Berlusconi he was brave, but now we have to look to the future, we are in another era,” said Brugnaro. “We are not against anyone, we say thank you, but we have to look to the future, we need young people.”
The group will continue to support the government of national unity, said its leader in parliament, Marco Marin. “This is a government of the best and it deserves to move forward. We are here to help [Prime Minister Mario] Draghi, who is the most capable person. “
Nicola Lupo, director of the Center for Parliamentary Studies at Luiss University in Rome, said: “Over the past 10 years, attempts to set up a structure similar to Forza Italia for a post-Berlusconi era have are intensified. The move now seems like a good time, with Berlusconi’s state of health and a huge government majority, giving MPs more flexibility to switch parties.
“Italy is paddling towards an unknown destination as Draghi already has determined big changes in the political system, and more are likely to occur in preparation for the 2022 presidential election. If there are any changes in government after that, a group of 25 parliamentarians could be decisive in forming another government, whereas 12 months ago this would have had little impact.