Italy’s two other right-wing parties have given into a demand from the leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League, Matteo Salvini, for a “pact” against “shady deals” with the center-left.
A joint manifesto unveiled this weekend promises lower taxes, lower immigration and the reversal of a long-overdue raise in the pension age.
Salvini has ruled out deals with centrists, saying the “three legs” of the conservative movement — counting his own party, Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the smaller Brothers of Italy — are enough to win the election in March.
The three are polling at close to 40 percent support, which may be enough to form a government.
The ruling Democrats are neck and neck with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. Both have 25-28 percent support.
The Democrats could lose their majority if left-wing purists who split from the party maintain their support at 5 to 7 percent.
Moderates recognize that the only way to stay in power may be to do a deal with Berlusconi, although that would aggravate the far left even more.
Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan opened the door to a left-right coalition in an interview with Corriere della Sera published this weekend.
The Five Stars have lifted their ban on dealmaking with other parties, possibly eying a role in the formation of the next government.
But so far, all the other major parties have ruled out collaborating with them.
The Five Stars call for a radical overhaul of Italian politics, including the introduction of direct democracy, leaving the euro and trading Italy’s NATO alliance with the United States for a closer relationship with Russia.