The far-right Meloni is shaping up to be the winner thanks to the weariness of a population that can no longer bear the ups and downs of politics. However, all the right-wing parties, which would have to govern the coalition, are very different from each other. Abstention will also be the protagonist in the elections
This Sunday, September 25, Italy celebrates general elections. All the polls indicate that the right will win over mani basse, a curious Italian expression from the world of equestrianism that describes that rider who imposes himself so abundantly on the others that he does not even need to pull the bridle to go through the line first of goal.
Continuing with the equine metaphors, within this coalition the winning horse will be Fratelli d’Italia whose leader, Giorgia Meloni, would far surpass his two allies, Matteo Salvini (Lega) and Silvio Berlusconi (Forza Italia), thus becoming the first woman to rule the country.
From the Draghi agenda to outdated anti-fascism
When in February 2021 Mario Draghi obtained the fiducia (trust) that allowed him to form the 67th cabinet of the Italian Republic, all the parties except Fratelli d’Italia turned to the new president. Just seventeen months later, three of his government partners (Movimento 5 Stelle, Lega and Forza Italia) dynamited the executive and forced Draghi to resign.
A summer electoral campaign followed, characterized by the creation of a third centrist pole aligned with Draghi’s policies, by the constant increase in consensus of Fratelli d’Italia, by a slight recovery of the Movimento 5 Stelle thanks, once again, to his « star dish”, the income of citizenship, and by a Democratic Party incapable of creating a center-left coalition and wielding the danger of a return to fascism.
Exactly a century after the march on Rome that brought Benito Mussolini and his National Fascist Party to power, that warning could even be suggestive; however, it ended up tiring because it was repetitive. Already in 1994, after the novice (politically speaking) Berlusconi won the elections, the left mobilized against the danger of a return to the fascist regime.
From then on, whenever the right threatens to come close to victory, the anti-fascist litany returns undaunted, reducing the progressive election campaign to a fruitless ghost hunt from the past.
Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Fratelli d’Italia party, during an electoral rally in Turin on September 13, 2022. /
To what is the success of Giorgia Meloni due?
It was 2013 when Fratelli d’Italia stood for election for the first time: it did not even reach 2%. In 2018, still improving, it managed a somewhat brilliant 4%. Now it is predicted to be close to 25%. If in a matter of four years a quarter of Italians are willing to vote for Giorgia Meloni, that is not a sign that Italy has slipped rapidly towards totalitarianism. It is due rather to the weariness of a part of the population which, outraged by the ups and downs that since 2018 have led the country to govern the country first by the 5 Stelle Movement with the Lega, then the 5 Stelle Movement with the Democratic Party and, finally, a Draghi with the support of almost all the parties, sees Fratelli d’Italia as the last possible alternative. Many voters must think that there is no other choice but to trust the only party that has remained outside the area of government in these years.
Nor should a last-minute drag effect be ruled out. That said, despite the fact that Meloni has softened his program a lot, he will necessarily have to satisfy that 4% that has been faithful to him in difficult times and that makes up the hard core of the party: the unconditional first-timers.
A complicated coexistence
If the expectations of the polls are fulfilled, the right will reach the government, but it will not be easy for it to govern. The three parties that make up this coalition could not be more different from each other. It goes from a liberal interpretation of politics in Forza Italia, with its Europeanism and its international links to the European People’s Party, to a Eurosceptic Lega, contrary to continuing to impose sanctions on Putin, going through the Atlanticist conservatism of Catholic overtones of Fratelli d’ Italy. In addition, Meloni, reaping such a comfortable advantage over his allies, could end up like that cyclist who falls out of the group to win alone and ends up being isolated from the rest of his team.
A few days ago, Lega and Fratelli d’Italia voted against a European Parliament resolution (supported by 81% of MEPs present) according to which Hungary can no longer be considered a full democracy. That Orbán governs an illiberal democracy is nothing new, he himself boasts about it. What is surprising is the timing of this vote, almost a warning to the wayward Salvini and Meloni.
On the other hand, Russia has also entered the election campaign with rumors of party funding that, at the time of writing, are unconfirmed, but point to the Lega, whose support for Putin is well known.
Whatever happens on Sunday, Italy will vote in a climate of high level of mistrust towards current politicians, which will cause abstention to grow.
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