Today’s parliamentary elections may make far-right candidate Georgia Meloni the first woman to lead the nation
After an unusual campaign carried out in the middle of summer and a day of ‘silenzio elettorale’, the beautiful term with which the day of reflection is called in the country, 51 million Italians are called this Sunday to the polls in parliamentary elections that can make Giorgia Meloni, candidate of the far-right Fratelli d’Italia (FdI, Brothers of Italy) party, the first woman to lead the government of a nation where machismo is still very present. It would be an undoubted success for her, far from feminist proclamations, and also for her political strength, which in the previous elections, held in 2018, remained at 4% of the ballots. In this way, she would demonstrate that it is no longer just the voting option of those nostalgic for fascism, where FdI has its roots, and that her strategy to become an attractive alternative for conservative voters has been successful.
Meloni’s foreseeable victory is explained in part by his consistency: he has opposed all the governments of the previous legislature to the point of exercising as the only opposition the outgoing Executive of Mario Draghi, which was supported by a very broad coalition of parties, which they ranged from the extreme left to the hard right. The dissolution of that alliance last July caused the end of the Executive led by Draghi and the call for early elections, thus putting Meloni on a platter his landing in power. She would be the culmination of a political career that began in adolescence and that led her to be the youngest minister of Italian democracy when she was in charge of Youth Policies between 2008 and 2011.
If what the polls predicted two weeks ago is fulfilled, since its publication has been prohibited since then, Meloni would achieve an absolute majority along with the other members of the conservative coalition, the League of Matteo Salvini and Forza Italia (FI), the party of Silvio Berlusconi, who is about to celebrate his 86th birthday this Thursday with a new electoral success, yes, now as a junior member of the right-wing bloc. Although during the campaign he has assured that the presence of FI in a possible government of the conservatives would guarantee that Italy would not turn its back on NATO or the EU, his latest statements on Ukraine, affirming that Russia intended to change the current leader of kyiv, Volódimir Zelenski, by an Executive “of decent people”, can have a cost in the polls.
Beyond the unknown of who will be the leader of the next Italian Executive, there is the certainty that it will not be easy in his task. He will assume the reins of an aging country, with a demographic curve that is plummeting and that will mean that, in 2050, the quota of citizens of working age will have been halved and there will be five million fewer inhabitants. The economic situation is also to shake, with a public debt that exceeds 150% of GDP, one of the highest levels of developed countries. The rise in the price of money is going to encourage Italy to pay more interest and will complicate life when it comes to financing companies and families, who are already suffering the consequences of the energy crisis and inflation, which in August reached 8.4%. “The situation is difficult, let’s not fool ourselves,” he has repeated on numerous occasions during the Meloni campaign, trying to give his followers a reality check.
“The first thing the next government will have to do is guarantee the gas supply for the winter. If we enter an emergency situation, it would be the thing that could change everything,” says Eugenio Pizzimenti, professor of political science at the University of Pisa. The gas issue is crucial for Italy: it produces a good part of its electricity with this hydrocarbon, which it imported mainly from Russia until the president of that country, Vladimir Putin, ordered the invasion of Ukraine last February. Since then it has reduced gas purchases from Moscow to 18% (they were 40% in 2021), although until the second half of 2024 it will not be able to do without them completely.
Another of the great challenges that the next head of government will have to face is that of the everlasting political instability in Italy, a country where Cabinets last an average of just over thirteen months. If the right-wing coalition wins two thirds of the seats, it could launch the constitutional reform that Meloni aspires to establish a semi-presidential republican regime, similar to the one existing in France, and thus reduce the influence of Parliament, gaining stability. However, Pizzimenti considers that if the FdI candidate finally came to power “she would not talk much about this reform, at least at first, because it is a risky issue that can wear her down.” She also does not believe that there will be big swings in support for Ukraine for the war or in the position in the European Union.
This political scientist from the University of Pisa asks not to forget that “the room for maneuver that European governments have today is limited, because many decisions are made in Brussels. Whichever Executive comes out of the elections, some discontinuity measures will be adopted, but I don’t think there will be big changes.” There will also always be the figure of the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, to whom the Italian Constitution grants an important role as guarantor and who has given ample evidence of responsibility during the various political crises of recent years.
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