Authored by Valerio Alfonso Bruno
Giorgia Meloni’s Victory
In an election that witnessed a record level of abstentionism among voters (only about 64% went to vote), Fratelli d’Italia, with 26% of electoral preferences (Chamber of Deputies), undoubtedly cashed in a fine victory (in 2018 it had obtained around 4%) at the 25 September election. In the coming days Giorgia Meloni will be busy preparing a government team to propose to the President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella.
A striking result for Meloni, with the balance within the coalition totally overturned. Yet the coalition overall obtained 44%, less than many analysts and pollsters had predicted, especially due to the disappointing performance of the League, a rather poor 8,8% from the over 17% it got in the 2018 general election (not to mention the 33% of the EP election in 2019).
With the press and media around the world questioning, not without reason, the ideological roots of what will in all likelihood be Italy’s next PM, we are also looking cautiously at the first approach with the European institutions, first and foremost the Commission, and the financial markets which, it is worth remembering, play a key role in a country with a high level of debt in terms of public finances, such as Italy.
The next Italian government is about to have to navigate very narrow spaces and, if possible, even more stormy waters. Compared to 2018, in fact, we have witnessed not only a pandemic that is still far from being defeated, but a bloody war unleashed in Europe and an inflation, particularly due to the energy crisis, so high as not seen in decades.
What’s Ahead Now for Italy?
A very sensitive dossier that will pass from Draghi to Meloni will be the management of the PNRR, a comprehensive of some €222 billion, based on both non-repayable grants and loans, part of the massive Next Generation EU, a €750 billion stimulus fund. In several interviews, members of Fratelli d’Italia, as in their own political programme, have hinted at the possibility of a ‘re-discussion’ on how and where to allocate the PNRR resources, to be submitted to the EU, while for her part, the president of the European Commission Von der Leyen had already vaguely predicted that in the event of a victory for the right-wing coalition, that ‘if things go wrong, we have the tools’, causing heated comments, by several coalition members.
However, it is very unlikely that the next government, having filed away the swaggering tones of the election campaign, will set itself on a collision course with the European institutions. As I have argued recently, it is more likely that, together with pre-announced welfare cuts (especially the citizenship income, much supported by the Five Star Movement) with resources that should, among other things, be allocated to traditional families and to halting Italy’s demographic decline (the first point of the political programme), that the policies of a possible Meloni government will be directed towards areas that, at least on the paper, would be both (a) less costly and (b) less risky, in terms of possible disputes with the EU.
Expectations for Meloni
It is likely, therefore, that at least initially the next Italian government may focus on policies that are less burdensome in economic terms, primarily immigration and policies, mostly propagandistic, regarding “cultural” issues in an identity and nativist sense, touching on areas such as education, sports, the role of the traditional family, and the religious sphere. In times of semi-permanent electoral campaigning, it will indeed be in the interest of the new government and especially Fratelli d’Italia, to try to keep its consensus high in a political context such as the current one that sees leaderships easily crumbling (see Matteo Salvini) if the media attention of public debate is not kept constant on issues that can polarize.
This will be the real and very difficult test awaiting the next government, with a “honeymoon” that promises to be very short, given such a complicated European and international context. If the Meloni government succeeds in holding on, strengthening itself “at home,” then it could really begin to turn the tide at the European level, starting with the next European parliamentary election, that will take place in 2024 through the party of which she is spokesperson, the ECR party, of which the Spanish VOX, Polish PiS and Sweden Democrats are members alongside Brothers of Italy.
More About the Author
Valerio Alfonso Bruno is a fellow of the Center for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR), a member of the Center for European Futures (CEF) and a research fellow at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, where he collaborates with Polidemos (Centre for the Study of Democracy and Political Change). Bruno mainly works on European and Italian politics, with a focus on populist and radical right-wing parties. He is currently working on the books The rise of the Radical-Right in Italy (Ibidem/Columbia University Press) with J.F. Downes and A. Scopelliti and Brothers of Italy: Organisation, Leadership and Ideology (Springer) with M. Morini. His analyses and interviews have appeared in The Financial Times, The Economist, Al Jazeera, The Sunday Times, and The Telegraph.