Italy turns right with FDI’s Georgia Meloni

Atmosphere during Giorgia Meloni’s meeting in Cagliari to launch her campaign for Italy’s next general election in Cagliari on September 2, 2022 in Cagliari, Italy. Italians go to the polls for the general election on September 25, 2022.

Emanuele Platform | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Italian voters will head to the polls on Sunday in a snap general election that is likely to see a government led by a far-right party come to power, marking a huge political shift for a country already experiencing ongoing economic and political instability. .

Polls before 9 September (when a blackout period began) showed that a right-wing coalition easily won a majority of seats in the slimmed-down Lower and Upper Houses of parliament.

The coalition is led by Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy), and includes three other right-wing parties: Lega, under Matteo Salvini, Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and a minor coalition partner, Noi Moderati.

The Brothers of Italy party stands out from the crowd and is expected to get the majority of the vote for one party. According to poll aggregator Politiche 2022, it will get nearly 25% of the vote, far ahead of its closest right-wing ally Lega, which is expected to get about 12% of the vote.

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the right-wing party Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) holds a giant Italian national flag during a political rally on February 24, 2018 in Milan, Italy.

Emanuele Cremaschi | Getty Images

On the center-left side, it is seen that the Democratic Party led by former Prime Minister Enrico Letta will win about 21% and its coalition partners (the Green and Left Alliance, More Europe and Civic Commitment) will all win very low single digit shares of the vote.

The snap election follows Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s resignation in July after he failed to unite a fragile political coalition behind his economic policies.

Who are ‘Brothers of Italy?’

If Fratelli d’Italia wins the election, the party’s leader, Giorgia Meloni, could become Italy’s first female prime minister. She would also be the first far-right leader since Benito Mussolini came to power in Italy 100 years ago.

Carlo Ciccioli, president of Fratelli d’Italia in an eastern Italian region of Le Marche, told CNBC that the party’s lightning-fast popularity had “spread to the rest of Italy,” and the party was ready to rule.

“Right now we are probably the largest party in the country – which can only be confirmed by Sunday’s vote, not polls. Why do I think Fratelli d’Italia will make it? Because our leadership is one Giorgia Meloni is both prepared culturally as well as politically,” he told CNBC’s Joumanna Bercetche.

The Fratelli d’Italia party was founded in 2012, but has its roots in Italy’s 20th-century neo-fascist movement that emerged after the death of fascist leader Mussolini in 1945.

After several iterations, a group, including Giorgia Meloni, split from Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (or PdL) party to launch Fratelli d’Italia. The name refers to the first words of the Italian national anthem.

The party has since grown in popularity and has now overtaken the populist Lega party, after agreeing with parts of the public concerned about immigration (Italy is the destination for many migrant boats crossing the Mediterranean), the country’s relationship with the EU and the economy.

Analysts say another reason for the party’s popularity was its decision not to join Draghi’s recent broad coalition. This set Meloni apart “as an outsider within the political system and gained more media exposure as the sole opposition figure,” Teneo Risk Consultancy co-chair Wolfango Piccoli said in a recent note.

Roots and Policies

In terms of policy, Fratelli d’Italia has often been described as “neo-fascist” or “post-fascist”, its policies reflect the nationalist, nativist and anti-immigration stance of Italy’s fascist era. For its part, however, Meloni claims to have rid the party of fascist elements, saying in the summer that Italy’s right wing “has transferred fascism to history for decades.”

Still, the policy is socially conservative to say the least, with the party opposing same-sex marriage and promoting traditional “family values,” with Meloni saying in 2019 its mission was to defend “God, homeland and family.”

70 governments in 77 years: why Italy changes government so often

When it comes to Europe, Fratelli d’Italia has reversed its opposition to the euro, but is in favor of reforming the EU to make it less bureaucratic and have less influence on domestic policies. His plan is summed up in one of his slogans: “A Europe that does less, but does better.”

At the economic level, it has postponed the centre-right coalition’s stance that the next government should cut sales taxes on certain goods to ease the cost of living crisis, and Italy has said it must renegotiate its Covid recovery funds. with the EU.

Fratelli d’Italia has been pro-NATO and pro-Ukraine and supports sanctions against Russia, unlike Lega which is ambivalent about those measures.

However, the party was also friendly towards one of the EU’s main opponents, Hungarian President Viktor Orban, and backed the strongman’s leader after a European Parliament resolution decided that Hungary can no longer be defined as a democracy.

Center-left politicians fear relations with the rest of Europe would change under a Meloni-led government. Enrico Letta, the head of the Democratic Party, told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick that Italy had two options when it came to Europe: stay at the top of economics and governance, or “degrade.”

“[The] first option is to keep our position in ‘first division’. First division means Brussels and Germany, France, Spain, the major European countries, the founders, like us. The second option is to relegate to the second division with Poland and Hungary and stay with them against Brussels, against Berlin, against Paris and Madrid,” he said at Ambrosetti’s economic forum in early September.

“I think it would be a disaster for Italy to choose the second division,” he said.

Italy's Letta says the country was on the right track and hopes to convince voters to stay on track

Meloni has been described by some as a sort of political chameleon, with analysts noticing changes in her political position over time.

“There is… a question about who Meloni will lead the government: the one who praised Hungary’s Viktor Orban or the one who supported Mario Draghi’s anti-Russian stance?” Teneo’s Wolfango Piccoli said in a note earlier in September.

The sovereign who called for Italy’s exit from the euro or the reassuring leader who embraced a more conventional line to Europe during the election campaign? The populist who promoted the idea of ​​a naval blockade in the Mediterranean to stop the illegal influx of immigrants .. or the more responsible conservative politician who talked about a European solution to the problem?” he said.

Italy's debt-to-GDP ratio is the second highest in the eurozone

As this is Italy (a country that has notoriously had 69 governments since World War II), some instability and turbulence is expected in the aftermath of the vote, not least because divisions are likely to develop between the FdI, Lega and Forza Italia forming the right-wing alliance.

Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi will be difficult coalition partners, desperate to regain visibility after a (probable) defeat on election day by highlighting policy differences, including on issues such as fiscal discipline, pensions and sanctions against Russia. after the foreground vote, which caused turbulence and undermined the effectiveness of the new executive,” Piccoli added.

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