Triumphant Victory of Giorgia Meloni in the Italian Legislative Elections

Giorgia Meloni’s electoral triumph on 26th September appointed her as the first Italian female prime minister. However, the Italians’ wish for radical change still depends on her party, Fratelli d’Italia, manoeuvring within her coalition government. In the meantime, the EU holds its breath to discover Meloni’s first actions regarding the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. 

Meloni-led coalition achieved victory 

On the 25th of September, the right-wing coalition Fratelli d’Italia led by Georgia Meloni won Italian general elections. The Meloni-led coalition, with Matteo Salvini’s nationalist League, and former premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, won 44 per cent of the vote, a performance poising Meloni to become Italy’s first female prime minister. 

After 19 months of stability under Mario Draghi, the country took some risks. Even mainstream voters jumped into the unknown by bringing a heterogeneous and identity-based coalition to power. For the first time since Benito Mussolini’s Republican Fascist Party during World War 2, the Italian population moved across the political spectrum and elected a party with profound roots in Fascism. 

Trying to divorce from its difficult past, Meloni claimed on multiple occasions, that fascism is a thing of the past. But the tricolour flame in the Brothers of Italy logo says otherwise. It celebrates her party’s connection with its fascist past by reviving the MSI’s – Italian Social Movement- emblem. Fascist values also survived in the Brothers of Italy’s present-day concerns about limiting migration, increasing social welfare, boosting the birth rate, and limiting reproductive rights.

“We got a clear indication, the clear indication for a centre-right government led by Brothers of Italy.[.…] It’s important to understand that if we will be called to lead this country, we will do that for all. We will do that for all Italians. We will do that with the aim to unify this people to underline what unifies it rather than what divides it”, Meloni said on Sunday 2nd October. 

Contrary to Mussolini’s Republican Fascist Party, Italy’s far-right bloc is far from stable. Matteo Salvini’s deeply nationalistic League, clashes with Silvio Berlusconi’s pro-European Forza Italian. The 85-year-old former prime minister’s party was supported by the conservative European People’s Party (EPP), the biggest group in the European parliament. “We are confident that Forza Italia will guide the next government into a path that serves the best interests of the Italian people as part of a strong and stable Europe” it said. The Italian government’s resilience, in this context, will be tested during negotiations to expand the “majority’s room for manoeuvring”.

Ukraine, a crucial test for the new-elected Italian government

Giorgia Meloni’s victory comes at a critical time for Europe, with ongoing wark in the continent.  Many worry that the coalition’s ambiguous attitude towards Russia will affect the Italian position in the war. 

For now, Meloni withstands Mr. Putin’s attempts to break Western anti-Kremlin sanctions. Despite congratulating Putin for his election win in 2018, she spoke out strongly in support of the Western line on multiple occasions, and advocated sending weapons to the government in Kyiv. 

But this is not the case of her coalition partners. Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi have themselves praised the Russian leader throughout the war. Berlusconi even used the official Russian wording for the war, claiming that ‘Putin was pushed by the Russian people, by his party, by his ministers, to come up with this special operation’. 

Sanctions placed on Russia have had negative economic consequences on families and businesses, and caused the suffering of many Italians. Despite the European Commission’s approval on Tuesday 27th September for €21bn of a €200bn EU pandemic recovery fund for Italy, mounting Italian public pressures will test Ms. Meloni’s determination to hold the line during the winter. Considering that Salvini complains about embargo policies and that Berlusconi appears to justify the invastion, Italy’s support for Ukraine appears fragile.

A critical time for Europe

The victory of a post-fascist movement in a founding member of the EU and the third largest economy of the Eurozone deeply threatens the political integration of the Union

She is thought likely to team up with members seen by Brussels as “problematic” – Katalin Novák, President of Hungary from the right-wing populist, and national-conservative political party Fidesz and Andrzej Duda, the deeply conservative president of the Republic of Poland – especially regarding immigration policy. Meloni is expected to bring swift-changes to migration. Consolidating her hard-line anti-immigration agenda, she called for a “naval blockade” at sea to prevent “illegal departures” to Italy on 3rd October.  

Several European leaders foresee a “very difficult time” for Europe. The French government was showing great caution the day after the elections. “I am not going to comment on the democratic choice of the Italian people,” explained French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, on September 26th, on French television channel BFM-TV. The prime minister simply defended the role of Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, to “[remind] us that in Europe we have values, and that each State must respect these values – the rule of law, human rights, abortion rights.”

Relations with European institutions are also uncertain. Following the success of the Sweden’s democrats and Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National Success in France, nationalist parties made major progress in conquering Europe. Opposed to the values that founded the EU, the historic victory of Fratelli d’Italia brings Europe closer to a far-right Europe. 

Everyone hopes that Italy will gain a more usual approach pro-European and Atlantic. For that, Meloni needs to make compromise with both her coalition partners and the European and International contexts. In this view, the nation-state operates as an independent actor within the international context by maintaining friends with similar values and interests. As Meloni herself claims, “I would like an Italy capable of defending its national interest as Germany and France certainly do within the European Union”. 

Image credit: https://www.ft.com/content/47c970ab-72a1-4072-aefe-3520b353993f

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