May 23. 2024. 8:01

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Meloni-Schlein planned TV showdown sparks backlash

Italian Prime Minister and Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni and Socialist Party leader Elly Schlein are to face off in a much-anticipated TV debate, but the decision has drawn criticism from analysts and other leaders who are trying to get it cancelled, saying it raises questions of fair play and clashes with the debate on the candidates for European Commission president.

After months of negotiations, the debate between Meloni and Schlein, to be broadcast on RAI‘s Porta a Porta, a prestigious news programme hosted by Bruno Vespa, has been set for 23 May – the same day as the final debate between the leading candidates for the European Commission presidency.

A “paradoxical and frankly disappointing” choice, according to Edoardo Bressanelli, professor at the Scuola Sant’Anna di Pisa, in an interview with Euractiv Italy.

It will be paradoxical because “Schlein and Meloni will not take up their seats, even if elected. If – and this “if” needs to be underlined – national leaders believe in the Spitzenkandidat process, then they should avoid taking away from it the little media attention it could get,” said Bressanelli.

The professor noted that while the European elections, scheduled for June, are gaining in importance and visibility in Europe, they are often considered secondary in Italy.

“The sad story is that the leading media contest for the EU Parliament elections will be between two national leaders who will not take up their seat and whose focus will be as much on the national level – as incidentally local elections are held on the same day – as on the EU level, where it should be,” Bressanelli explained.

Other parties in the elections, both in opposition and in government, have also spoken out against the televised debate, citing concerns about fairness.

“There are no ‘first-class’ and ‘second-class’ representatives,” said Deputy Prime Minister Antonio Tajani, leader of Forza Italia (EPP), Meloni’s coalition partner.

The left-green alliance “Alleanza Verdi-Sinistra” was even more vocal in its opposition, describing the televised debate as “ridiculous and offensive” and criticising it for violating democratic principles, saying it would only focus on two opposing alliances and not give all parties enough air time.

RAI has reportedly taken proactive steps by inviting other leaders for further prime-time debates.

Matteo Renzi, former prime minister and leader of Italia Viva (Renew), criticised the motive behind such debates, claiming that Meloni and Schlein’s “goal isn’t to engage in politics in Strasbourg” and accusing debate organisers of violating the regulatory rules and not playing fair.

Renzi also revealed that he had received an email from Vespa “for a confrontation with Tajani”, which he accepted.

The president of the RAI Supervisory Commission, Barbara Floridia (5-Star Movement), sent a letter to AGCOM, the national communications regulator, asking for guarantees of fairness “to avoid undue advantages for some political forces over others”.

AGCOM will meet on Wednesday for its routine monitoring of fairness standards. It may issue guidelines to RAI on the matter, reaffirming rules that allow debates as long as equal time is given to all leaders.

(Alessia Peretti |

Read more with Euractiv

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