Italy Could Soon Get Its First Female Leader—A Polished Far-Right Firebrand


This weekend, Italy has the potential to make history. If polls are accurate, Italian voters will elect Giorgia Meloni as the country’s first female prime minister and Brothers of Italy to lead the most far-right administration since World War II on Sunday.

However, there are significant reasons for the Italian elections that go far beyond Italy. After failing for years to fully penetrate the wall of protection around the extreme right—the likes of which have kept the far-right from assuming power in other significant E.U. Despite advocating many of the same objectives, some European far-right parties, like Meloni’s, have changed their names to broaden their appeal and soften their image, especially in Germany and France.

If Meloni’s Brothers of Italy win the most votes on September 25 — a result that would likely see Meloni leading a coalition government alongside far-right leader Matteo Salvini’s Northern League party and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Forward Italy party — it will not only serve as a model for other like-minded parties to imitate, but it will also represent a new face of the European far-right: one that is more sophisticated and electorally.

The most frequent response when you ask Italian politicians and analysts what is driving Brothers of Italy’s unexpected ascent is that it is the only opposition party on the ballot, despite having neo-fascist roots and barely receiving more than 4% of the vote in the most recent Italian election in 2018. It is the only major political party in the nation that chose to abstain from the unusual unity government, which was led by the independent technocrat Mario Draghi until it fell apart earlier this summer as a result of weeks of infighting, making it the most likely recipient of the protest vote.

 

 

According to Piero Ignazi, a political professor at the University of Bologna and an authority on the Brothers of Italy, “[Meloni] receives the support of a lot of people for one reason or another: inflation, cost of energy, whoever is not happy with the current scenario.” These individuals will cast their ballots for a rival party.

But many are concerned about Meloni’s past. The 45-year-old politician’s involvement in politics dates back to at least 1992, when she joined the Italian Social Movement as a 15-year-old growing up in a working-class suburb of Rome. When Meloni was a teenager, he admired Benito Mussolini as being “a good politician,” and the neo-fascist party, which was founded in 1946, is thought to have been the forerunner of Brothers of Italy, which Meloni co-founded ten years ago. Although Meloni later retracted her support of Mussolini, the party’s neo-fascist yearning still exists. The tricolor flame that serves as her party’s logo is a representation of the Italian Social Movement, and some of Mussolini’s heirs have even run for office under its banner.

Ignazi calls the notion that Meloni’s party wants to reinstate Italy’s fascist government “nonsense.” However, she runs for office with all the hallmarks of a far-right politician. She has slammed “Brussels bureaucrats,” “the LGBT lobby,” “climate fanaticism,” and the “globalist” left and warned of the dangers of “ethnic substitution” brought on by immigration (a not-so-subtle reference to the “great replacement” conspiracy theory). They will say we are dangerous, fanatics, racists, fascists, deniers, and homophobes, Meloni warned the party’s members in a speech earlier this summer in favor of Spain’s far-right Vox Party.

The words recalled similar ones made by Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former White House chief strategist, who in 2018 urged Marine Le Pen followers to “Let them call you xenophobes, let them name you nativists.” Put on a badge of honor and wear it.


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Meloni stands out, though, in that she seems to have learnt from the errors made by her far-right partners in other parts of Europe, many of whom, though not all, were disqualified from running for office or governing because they were deemed to be too poisonous by voters and political parties. Meloni has worked hard to modify her party’s image throughout the campaign and position herself as a defender of family values, a fervent backer of Ukraine and NATO, as well as a woman, a mother, and a Christian—not as a nativist or Euroskeptic like Salvini.

According to Luigi Di Gregorio, a professor of political science at Tuscia University, Meloni is doing this in an effort to “convert [Brothers of Italy] into a wide conservative party.” “There are several political groups in Italy, but her goal is to lead the country’s most significant right-wing party. It is impossible for the most significant right-wing party in Italy to be on the far right.

Other places have tried this approach, with varied degrees of success. Despite having neo-Nazi roots, Sweden’s far-right Sweden Democrats are likely to play a significant role in the country’s next government after garnering the second-highest number of votes during elections earlier this month. Despite losing her rematch with Emmanuel Macron earlier this year, Le Pen gave her National Rally party its greatest electoral performance to date in France.

Unlike the Sweden Democrats and National Rally, Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party is predicted to place first, in part because she appears to have persuaded enough Italian moderates that the gamble is worthwhile. She’s the only candidate we haven’t tried yet, so she’s the best option, one voter told France 24.


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And Meloni is adamant about demonstrating her respect for parliamentary democracy in order to win over moderates. She dismissed concerns that her ascent to power is a sign of authoritarianism in Italy in a speech to the international press last month, saying that she and her coalition partners “fiercely oppose any anti-democratic drift” and share the principles of other traditionally center-right parties around the world. She has also cited her steadfast backing of Ukraine following Russia’s invasion as proof of her affiliation with Atlanta.

Legislators in Europe are also unconvinced. A far-right government in Rome with two of its leading figures viewed as being pro-Kremlin could erode Western unity in support of Ukraine. Furthermore, if Meloni joins forces with Viktor Orbán of Hungary, whom she has previously praised, Brussels’ ongoing efforts to preserve the rule of law within its borders may be derailed. For instance, to reduce E.U. A qualified majority of 15 member states, or 65% of the EU, would be required to approve funds for Budapest. Population approval is required.

Daniel Freund, a German Green Party member of the European Parliament and one of the negotiators behind the rule-of-law mechanism being used by European legislators to withhold E.U., says, “That’s a hard hurdle to [pass].” funds. “It becomes almost impossible to actually get the qualified majority if Italy is not a member of that alliance supporting the safeguarding of the rule of law.”

It is unknown if Meloni would maintain her efforts at moderation if she were to assume power. But she might not have full control over that choice. Meloni would have to deal with the coalition partners—who are not as united as they appear—and the core constituency of her party, many of whom might decide to switch allegiances to Salvini or Berlusconi if it appears that she has become too accommodating.

“Even if she is trying to change, there is nothing she can do with her electorate and, above all, with her party members,” says Teresa Coratella, the program manager at the European Council on Foreign Relations’ Rome office. “The big test for her will be to see if she manages to use the electoral victory as a way to completely reshape her party. But, as of today, I don’t think there is much she can do.”


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By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter

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