Italy - elections

Bread and butter issues clog up ballot boxes

More and more Italians struggle to afford basic foodstuff such as pasta and bread and candidates in Sunday’s upcoming election promise to have the solution. (Report: A. Masciarelli, M. Codrino, M. Felicetti, S. Taddei)



Market stalls in Rome are overflowing with fresh fruit and vegetables but many Italians are finding it hard to purchase basic foodstuff. Fatima Yelimoff, a Roman pensioner, lives by herself with a pension of some 600 euros a month. She’s been hit hard by the worst inflation records in 10 years. “I’ve bought four oranges, two apples and two bananas,” she explains. “Not more, I can’t. With what we earn, we can’t afford more. At the end of the month, we hardly eat. Only spaghetti without any sauce."


Linked to the international prices of petrol and grain, the cost of bread and pasta -- basic foodstuff --  has increased by 10 to 15% in 2007. Salaries and pensions have stagnated. The purchase power here is now one of the lowest in Western Europe. As the campaign for the upcoming elections closes this weekend, candidates are battling to convince voters they have the solution to Italy’s present plight.


“We are proposing to increase the lowest salaries,” says left-wing Democratic Party candidate Federica Mogherini, “and mainly to give to poorest families a cash bonus to help them financially, especially at the end of the month.”


The right-wing coalition offers to fight monopolies, to introduce new ways of calculating inflation figures for pensioners and lower taxes for large families. For Mario Baldassarri, an economist and candidate for the centre-right People of Liberty Party: “We must create more income opportunities and put a stop to inflation.” He warns though that the break with the past must be “serious and structural.”


For the time being, many Italians avoid taxes or take up undeclared work to make ends meet. On Sunday’s vote, many voters – whether right- or left-wing sympathizers - will mostly be concerned about how their vote can affect what goes into their pockets.

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