How did Giorgia Meloni win the Italian elections?
Giorgia Meloni and her Brothers of Italy party won the Italian elections held on Sunday. She will become the first female Prime Minister of Italy, but at the same time, she will also be Italy’s first far-right leader since World War II.
Her party is set to win 26% of the votes and her right-wing alliance including the League party of Matteo Salvini and the Forza Italia party of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is on course to control both houses of the parliament.
She is a controversial figure even though she softened her image and her links to Italy’s fascist past. But she still uses an old slogan of the fascists: "Dio, Patria e Famiglia", meaning “God, fatherland, and family.”
Why did the Brothers of Italy win?
Davide Vampa, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Aston University in Birmingham said that even though the right-wing bloc got almost the same votes as in 2018, they won in a landslide because of the divisions on the left, center-left, PD, and the Five Star Movement.
"It's also true that there has been the impressive growth of Brothers of Italy, and this is probably due to the fact that Brothers of Italy was the only party in opposition, it has been in opposition for the last five years whereas all the other parties had been in government at least once over the last five years," Vampa said.
He also added that since the League party was part of the Draghi government, votes shifted from the League to the Brothers of Italy.
Is “Brothers of Italy” a direct descendant of Italian Fascism?
Meloni entered politics at the age of 15 as a member of the youth front of the Italian Social Movement (MSI). MSI was formed by former fascists after WWII and it was dissolved in 1995. Meloni then joined the National Alliance (1995-2009) which was the predecessor of the MSI.
After 2009, she joined Silvio Berlusconi's center-right People of Freedom party, but she left in 2012 after internal disagreements within the party. Following the split, Brothers of Italy was founded in 2012 with the party still retaining the flame symbol of the MSI and having Mussolini’s descendants as candidates.
Meloni said fascism is outdated and there was “no room for those nostalgic for fascism” in her party. But there have been controversies in her party with an MEP being suspended after an undercover documentary showed him talking about illegal funding with people who made fascist salutes and racist jokes.
Roberto Saviano, in his article for The Guardian, said that Meloni is a danger to Italy and the rest of Europe. He said that Meloni’s real beliefs and goals may not appear the same but her words carry echoes of Mussolini.
“Her speeches play on the need for identity, on the very human fear of being marginalized or going unrecognized. In her hands, identity becomes a propaganda tool for dividing the world into Us and Them,” said Saviano.
In terms of economic policies, Meloni said that she wants to continue the path set by Mario Draghi. She said that Italy is already way too indebted, so she is not in favor of widening the budget deficit.
In an article they wrote for Reuters, Giuseppe Fonte and Gavin Jones said that her first task will be to find billions of euros to keep her election promises to soften energy costs, cut taxes, and block the rise in the retirement age. Her coalition ally, League leader Matteo Salvini said that the energy crisis will be the first test for the new government.
Meloni’s program largely overlaps with the League, especially in terms of immigration. She supports closed borders and naval blockades in the Mediterranean Sea to block migrants from North Africa.
But in foreign policy, Meloni and Salvini have different views. Meloni described herself as “proudly pro-NATO” and pro-Ukraine while Salvini is closer to Russia. The third partner in the alliance, the former PM Silvio Berlusconi said that Putin was pushed to invade Ukraine and that Putin wanted to put “decent people” in Kyiv.
The coalition partners also have different views on the European Union with Meloni softening her anti-EU stance.
“For many years she campaigned on a platform that was very critical of the EU, even arguing for Italy’s exit on the euro from time to time, but now she has changed her position reflecting in a sense this strong widespread support for Italy in the EU,” Ettore Greco, the executive vice president of the Istituto Affari Internazionali, told CNBC.
On the topic of LGBT, Meloni claims that she is not homophobic and that civil unions are “good enough” for gay couples. She also said that she is against the “gender ideology.” Alessia Crocini, the president of an association of gay families titled “Rainbow Families” said: “We hoped that the country would go forward, but we have a dark period ahead.”