Italy’s Salvini Reunites With Berlusconi, But Not For Keeps

(Bloomberg) -- Italy’s Matteo Salvini staged a rare joint appearance with Silvio Berlusconi ahead of a regional election, but Salvini ruled out returning to the ex-premier’s embrace at the national level.

Deputy Premier Salvini of the anti-migrant League, Berlusconi and Giorgia Meloni, of the far-right Brothers of Italy party ran together in the country’s March elections. They are currently opponents in parliament though allied in many local administrations.

The trio staged an awkward reunion on Thursday for the first time since the vote, in an attempt to rally voters before local elections on Sunday in the central region of Abruzzo.

“I’m sure the center-right will be the future for Italy, for Europe and the West,” Berlusconi said at a press conference in the Adriatic city of Pescara after being asked whether the bloc could rule Italy together once again. The former premier has often urged Salvini to ditch his populist coalition partner, the Five Star Movement.

Salvini, first dodged the question, then commented tersely that “where the center-right governs regions, it does so very well, but that can’t be transferred to other situations,” referring to the national level.

Squabbling Allies

Amid tensions within the populist government, and speculation on possible early elections this year, both Salvini and fellow Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio of Five Star have been campaigning in Abruzzo with the vote considered a test of their strengths.

With Five Star declining in national opinion polls, its candidate Sara Marcozzi is battling to stay ahead in the region after Five Star scored 39.8 percent in Abruzzo in March general elections, ahead of the center-right bloc with 35.9 percent. Marco Marsilio, a Rome senator for Brothers of Italy, leads the center-right group for Sunday’s vote.

Salvini could pay a price for embracing Berlusconi’s center-right Forza Italia party, as Berlusconi is seen by many voters as embodying the old ruling class. The League is seen garnering 32 percent of the vote if it runs alone in the next general election, according to a League survey published in daily La Stampa on Thursday.

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