Giorgia Meloni is set to become Italy’s first female prime minister, with early official results confirming exit poll suggestions that her national conservative coalition, known as Centro Destra, has won enough seats to gain a parliamentary majority. The Fratelli d’Italia, which Meloni founded in 2012, won just 4.4% of the vote in the 2018 election. It is now Italy’s largest party, with over 26%. The coalition to which it belongs received over 43% of the vote in Sunday’s election.
The winning coalition, which will now run the EU’s third-largest economy, is composed of Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy), former Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini’s Lega, and former Prime Minister Silvia Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.
This victory comes just weeks after the rightist Sweden Democrats made substantial gains in the Nordic country’s national elections with the second-largest share of the vote.
Meloni’s views, Italian implications
According to Giovanni Capoccia, professor of politics at the University of Oxford, although Meloni’s coalition lacks a supermajority to change Italy’s constitution unilaterally, it does hold a majority in both Italy’s Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.
Rosa Balfour, director of Carnegie Europe, suggested on the BBC that the three keywords best used to describe what Meloni stands for are “ultraconservative values, anti-immigration and nationalism.”
In 2019, Meloni gave a speech to supporters in Rome, declaring: “I’m Giorgia, I’m a woman, I’m a mother, I’m Italian, I’m Christian! You won’t take that away from me!”
Meloni has previously stated she:
- supports a naval blockade preventing illegal aliens from the Near East and Northern Africa from flooding into Italy;
- opposes gay adoption and the LGBT lobby;
- opposed COVID-19 passports;
- believes in the defense of “national interests and popular sovereignty”;
- “a just relationship between government and taxpayers,” emphasizing economic freedom;
- seeks to “protect religious and moral values,”
- says “Yes to the culture of life, no the abyss of death”;
- says “No to the violence of Islam, yes to safe borders”;
- would “pull out of China’s Belt and Road Initiative”; and
- would “stay united” with the rest of the EU as it relates to Ukraine versus Russia;
Luca Tomini, a political scientist at Free Brussels University, told EuroNews that “what we need to expect is a more Eurosceptic position of the Italian government on several issues. There will be probably a realignment of Italy along with the government of Poland especially.”
The European Union has a fraught relationship with Hungary and Poland, particularly as the eastern European nations have pushed back against Brussels’ LGBT policies and emphasized the priority of their own laws and sovereignty.
Earlier this month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, when asked about the Italian election, claimed, “If things go in a difficult direction — and I’ve spoken about Hungary and Poland — we have the tools,” intimating Brussels could financially penalize EU governments that are regarded as in violation of central policy.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki responded, calling Leyen’s claims “scandalous,” suggesting, “She said Brussels had the tools to discipline Italy if it created a government that would not be in favor of Brussels. … Is this the Europe we want? … The Eurocrats in Brussels dictate what the government should be?”
At the 2020 National Conservatism conference in Rome, in a speech she dedicated to Pope John Paul II and former President Ronald Reagan, Meloni stated that one of the great challenges “facing us today is defending national identity and the very existence of nation-states as the sole means of safeguarding peoples’ sovereignty and freedom.”
“We did not fight against, and defeat, communism in order to replace it with a new internationalist regime,” said Meloni, “but to permit independent nation-states once again to defend the freedom, identity, and sovereignty of their peoples.”
Although Meloni and her coalition have been characterized as fascistic, she suggests they are guardians of democracy. “Whether the false democrats like it or not,” she said, “national conservatives in every latitude are actually the only real democrats, because it is only defending the nation-state that we defend the political sovereignty that belongs to the citizens of that state.”
Giorgia Meloni: God, Homeland, Family | NatCon Rome 2020
At a 2022 CPAC convention, Meloni told an American audience: “Our individual freedom is under attack, our rights are under attack, the sovereignty of our nations is under attack, the prosperity and well-being of our families is under attack, our children’s education is under attack. Faced with this … the only way to be rebellious is to preserve who we are, the only way to be rebellious is to be conservative.”
Leftist panic and outrage
As with the implications of the Swedish election, the results of Sunday’s Italian election have not been well received by the European and international left.
Enrico Letta, the leader of Italy’s leftist Democratic Party, described the success enjoyed by Meloni’s alliance as a “sad day for Italy and Europe.” Letta indicated he will now seek continued leadership of the party as of its next congress.
Pietro Castelli Gattinara, associate professor of political communication at Université Libre de Bruxelles, told Vox that the rise of popular rightist movements in Europe is “not that different from what we have been seeing in the U.S. with the radicalization of the Republican Party, what we are seeing in India with President [Narendra] Modi, what we have seen with Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil.”
Gattinara suggested such political gains are, in part, connected to and resultant of a “mainstreaming of far-right ideas, especially with respect to some topics such as ethnic diversity, immigration, and gender issues.”
Meloni as prime minister will, said Gattinara, “be a reboot of the Berlusconi years … but with a much stronger attention to some of the issues that are at the core of our far-right ideologies, I think, in particular, in terms of gender equality, in terms of civil rights, abortion rights, in terms of migration, in terms of religion.”
Some have already taken to social media to urge resistance to the new democratically elected government.
Italian writer Roberto Saviano wrote: “I read #Saviano in trend because the voters of Meloni ‘invite’ me to leave the country. These are warnings. This is Italy that awaits us. They are already drawing up a first black list of enemies of the homeland, in spite of those who said that Fascism is something else.”
Whereas some have claimed that the conservative victory in Italy signals “the elected return of Fascism,” others, including Sara Gonzales, BlazeTV host of “The News and Why It Matters,” have indicated that this is instead part of a trend of “People all over the world … waking up!”