The world continues its lurch to the right as a far-right coalition takes power in Italy, one of Europe's powerhouses.
The most right-wing government since Mussolini is forming a government in Italy after a general election this past weekend.
This comes as no surprise and accords with polling that preceded the election, causing further alarm for those who are worried about Europe, and the wider world, lurching to the right. The party that won the most votes (26%) in Europe’s third biggest economy were Brothers of Italy, headed by Giorgio Meloni, making her Italy’s first female prime minister. Brothers of Italy is a party with historically neofascist roots, formed out of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), set up by supporters of Benito Mussolini after the war.
Meloni will be forced into an expected coalition with two other right-wing parties, far-right Matteo Salvini and corrupt former head, and friend of Vladimir Putin, Silvio Berlusconi, with his center-right Forza Italia party. The scant good news for liberals is that these latter two parties returned lower vote share than predicted. Together, the alliance share 44% of the vote.
Salvini, previously the interior minister from 2018-19, has been a key mover in the then government anti-immigrant and anti-LGBT policies people, as well as being against women seeking access to safe abortions.
As for Meloni, The Guardian observes her typical right-wing policies and approaches, which are certainly a worry for those with a more humanistic ideal:
Like Hungary’s prime minister, Ms Meloni has channelled “great replacement” theory, pledging to defend Italy’s Christian identity by cracking down on immigration and upping Italy’s low birthrate. Her party’s virulent opposition to gay adoption and surrogacy was signalled by campaign criticism of a Peppa Pig cartoon broadcast on a state channel, in which a plotline featured same-sex parents.
The good news for those concerned with whether or not Meloni will support Ukraine is that she has stood strong in support of the country and their sovereign territorial integrity, unlike her two partners. The rhetoric, at least in this area, has been welcome.
Italy has a history of volatile governments and coalitions, thus prompting Salvini to come out publicly and declare that this one will last.
The coalition takes control after the recent strong economic performance of Italy, overtaking other European nations in their bounce back from the pandemic under Mario Draghi’s technocratic leadership. Draghi, (known as “Super Mario”, the 75-year-old pro-European former head of the European Central Bank) steered the country through some difficult times, finishing with strong approval.
The biggest threat for liberals in Europe is the three parties’ anti-EU sentiments, and their broader alignment with Hungary’s Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party and Poland’s Mateusz Morawiecki and his Law and Justice party (though the latter is very robust in being anti-Putin with good historical and geo-political cause).
The EU will soon have to navigate some increasingly choppy waters given that Italy has traditionally been, with France and Germany, part of the core triad pillars of the EU. Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission’s President, has announced she has “tools” to deal with Italy should they move in a “difficult direction.”
Having already threatened to cut €7.5 billion of funds allocated to Hungary, she appears to be referencing the fact that Italy is the biggest beneficiary of the Next Generation EU fund—a package of grants and loans to deal with the fallout of the pandemic. The funding, amounting to some €200 billion, must be signed off by the Commission. Von der Leyen holds some very important purse strings.
Given Sweden’s far-right electoral victory earlier this month, those on the left are very worried about a continued lurch to the political right being experienced all over the world. This perhaps lays extra emphasis on the upcoming midterm elections in the US in November, where the right have an opportunity to thrust a spanner in the works for the Biden administration.