Italians queue for promised free money as government stalemate continues
Dozens of people in Italy turned up at job centres to demand the guaranteed minimum income promised by the Five Star Movement – despite the fact that the party is not even in government yet.
The anti-establishment party’s campaign promise of a minimum monthly salary of €780 (£695) was credited by many analysts as one of the reasons it achieved such a resounding victory in southern Italy, where youth unemployment can exceed 50 per cent.
The party won 32 per cent of the vote nationally but in some southern constituencies it won as much as 70 per cent.
Five Star won 54 per cent of the vote in Campania, 49 per cent in Sicily, 45 per cent in Puglia and 43 per cent in Sardinia – all regions with struggling economies and high jobless rates.
The crowds who turned up at job centres and welfare offices in the southern region of Puglia apparently failed to appreciate that while it emerged as Italy’s most popular single party, it is still a long way from being in office.
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That did not stop them from demanding the forms that they believe would entitle them to the monthly stipend.
Around 50 people turned up at a job centre in Bari, on the Adriatic coast of Puglia, most of them reportedly people in their twenties and thirties, while the same thing occurred in a handful of other towns.
“I think people have been seduced by all the publicity that was done during the election campaign,” said Tommaso Depalma, the mayor of the town of Giovinazzo.
Up to nine million Italians could be entitled to the minimum wage, which the national statistics agency estimates could cost the country €15 billion (£13 billion) a year.
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Roberto Saviano, an author who knows the south well and who wrote a best-selling book about the Camorra mafia in Naples, said the economy of southern Italy was in such dire straits that “the only hope” was to receive welfare payments.
Across the south there was not just “a lack of work, but a lack of hope,” Mr Saviano wrote in La Repubblica newspaper.
Five Star is locked in a complex standoff with the anti-immigration, Right-wing League party, which has staked a rival claim to becoming the next government.
The League is at the helm of a centre-Right coalition that won 37 per cent of the vote.
It is likely to take weeks before any single political force can cobble together a deal with another party and muster the numbers to form a government.
There is speculation that Five Star could ally with the centre-Left Democratic Party, but outgoing leader Matteo Renzi, a former prime minister, is staunchly opposed to any such deal.
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