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Italy's RAI cancels TV debate between Meloni and Schlein

TV debate had been due to air on 23 May.

A planned television showdown between Italy's right-wing premier Giorgia Meloni and main opposition party leader Elly Schlein has been cancelled, state broadcaster RAI said on Thursday.

The much-anticipated debate between the leader of the right-wing Fratelli d'Italia (FdI) and the leader of the centre-left Partito Democratico (PD) had been scheduled to air on Porta a Porta, the RAI talkshow hosted by veteran journalist Bruno Vespa, on 23 May.

In a statement RAI said that only four out of the eight parties had responded to calls to debate, failing to meet the majority requested by the communications regulatory authority AGCOM.

Meloni and Schlein are both running as candidates in the European elections in June, even though neither will take up their seats if elected.

The planned tv duel had sparked criticism from opposition parties including the populist leftwing Movimento 5 Stelle (M5s), the centrist Azione and the liberal Più Europa party whose leader Riccardo Magi said: "Either there is a debate between all the forces in the field, or the confrontation between the leader of the PD and the premier should not take place."

There was also criticism from within the ruling coalition: Antonio Tajani, deputy premier and leader of the centre-right Forza Italia, said there was no such thing as "Serie A and Serie B leaders".

Following the news that the debate had been cancelled, M5S leader and former premier Giuseppe Conte wrote on X that an attempt had been made "to deceive voters" and that the aim of the planned confrontation was "to polarise the vote, to the detriment of all other political proposals."

Conte challenged Meloni to join a televised debate with him and all the other leaders on the independent network La7.

Photo credit: Andrea Raffin / Shutterstock.com.

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