why Giorgia Meloni’s far-right party, Brothers of Italy, is almost guaranteed to win

0

In the last elections in Italy in 2018, the Fratelli d’Italia – Brothers of Italy – were minnows and received only 4.4% of the vote. Now, ahead of the 2022 vote on September 25, opinion polls suggest the far-right group is on course for a historic victory that would make it Italy’s largest party.

In that case, the brothers of Italy would enter government at the head of a tripartite coalition (already agreed with Matteo Salvini’s Liga and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia). Party leader Giorgia Meloni becomes prime minister.

This is significant because the historical lineage of the Brethren of Italy stretches back to the post-war neo-fascists. In fact, its actual symbol (a tricolor flame) is the same as that of its predecessor, the National Alliance, and its predecessor, the Italian Social Movement – founded by veterans of Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic.

Rise of the Brethren of Italy.
Institute Piepoli, author provided

The result of this election is already considered agreed. This is not only because the disparities in the polls are so great, but also because the center and left parties failed to form a coalition ahead of the elections.

In Italy this is a form of political suicide. The electoral system – part majority, part proportional – favors those parties that make pacts and form grand coalitions before the elections. Still, Democrats rejected a pact with the Five Star Movement because of its role in toppling Mario Draghi’s government.

The centrist “third pole” created by two smaller parties was then rejected by the Democrats because they flirted with the Green Left. This fragmentation means not only that the right-wing coalition is second to none, but that it could capture more than two-thirds of the seats in Italy’s parliament with over 40% of the vote.

Alarm bells are ringing

Such a large majority would allow the government to change the constitution and introduce a directly elected presidency – an idea on which all three parties in the coalition seem to agree. When a far-right politician like Meloni talks about replacing parliamentary democracy with “people’s democracy”, it sends shivers down the spine of many Italians.

However, the fear of a return to the fascism of the past may be exaggerated. A detailed look at all policy areas (European integration, migration, energy crisis, Ukraine) shows clear differences between the three right-wing parties. It is by no means clear whether they are capable of producing a coherent government, let alone enacting radical constitutional reform.

Also, the positions taken by the Brethren of Italy often seem incompatible, if not contradictory. This is because Meloni is speaking to two listeners. One has to be sure that it will not be too extreme if it is chosen. The other consists of party members, militants, and sympathizers who need to know about upcoming ideologically motivated changes and who are more interested in the tone and the big picture than the details.

Europe and Russia

Meloni’s position on Europe is another cause for concern. Although she is committed to the EU, she also wants to examine various financial agreements with the EU. And the other parties in her coalition are known for their Euroscepticism. Their program (‘For Italy’) says they want a more political and less bureaucratic EU, and there are concerns about what that might mean.

Giorgia Meloni takes a selfie at a political rally with a huge crowd behind her.
Meloni speaks to two different target groups during the campaign.
EPA/Francesco Arena

A government led by Meloni also has possible consequences for sanctions against Russia and the arming of Ukraine. Both Europe and Moscow are wondering if the election result could lead to a change in the Italian government’s position that undermines the European united front. Despite Meloni’s apparent commitment to the European position, Salvini and Berlusconi are skeptics, if not outright opponents.

The American National Security Council recently unveiled evidence that Russia is secretly funneling funds to a large network of (yet unnamed) parties (including Italian ones) to disrupt democratic processes and win support for Moscow. This has fueled suspicions that right-wing parties may all be involved.

Meanwhile, Italy finds itself in a significantly deteriorating economic scenario and is particularly exposed to the Russian gas crisis. The IMF has estimated that an embargo on Russian gas would result in an economic contraction in Italy of over 5% – more than in any other EU country except Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

The country will also be affected by the European Central Bank’s decision to scale back its stimulus package by raising interest rates and buying government bonds. No wonder investors have dumped Italian bonds and hedge fund investors have bet heavily against them. In short, markets are concerned, although building some expectations of a right-wing victory, which could offset a dramatic post-election crash.

Déjà-vu?

It should be noted that Italy was previously in a similar political position. Ahead of the 2018 general election, there were widespread fears about what would happen if the populists came to power – and indeed they did. The Five Star Movement formed a government with Salvini’s League with a staggering 32.7% of the vote. But the government proved hopelessly divided (some would say incompetent) and collapsed a year later. According to today’s opinion polls, Five Star is now a relatively insignificant political force.

What is special about 2022, however, is that for the first time the heirs of neo-fascism will come to power. But it should not be forgotten that Italy’s political system is difficult to monopolize and even more difficult to reform. In short, the jury is still out on the threat Meloni posed.

Share.

Comments are closed.