Italy turns right with FDI Georgia Melon

The atmosphere at Giorgia Meloni’s rally in Cagliari to launch her campaign for the next Italian general election in Cagliari on September 02, 2022 in Cagliari, Italy. Italians are heading to a general election on September 25, 2022.

Emanuele Perrone | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Italian voters head to the polls on Sunday in a snap general election that is likely to usher in a government led by a far-right party, marking a huge political shift in a country already beset by ongoing economic and political instability.

Polls before September 9 (when the blackout period began) showed the right-wing coalition easily winning a majority of seats in parliament’s shrunken lower and upper houses.

The coalition is led by Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) and includes three other right-wing parties: Matteo Salvini’s Lega, Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and minor coalition partner Noi Moderati.

The Brothers of Italy party stands out from the rest and is expected to garner the largest number of votes of any political party. According to poll aggregator Politiche 2022, it has received almost 25% of the vote, far ahead of its closest right-wing ally Lega, which is expected to win around 12%.

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the right-wing Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) party, holds a giant Italian national flag during a political rally in Milan, Italy, on February 24, 2018.

Emanuele Cremaschi | Getty Images

The centre-left Democratic Party led by former prime minister Enrico Letta is expected to reach around 21%, and its coalition partners (League of Greens and Left, More Europe and Civic Responsibility) are all expected to get very low single-digit shares. of the vote.

The snap election followed the resignation of Prime Minister Mario Draghi in July after he failed to unite a fractured political coalition behind his economic policies.

Who are the “Italian Brothers”?

Fratelli d’Italia’s electoral victory could make party leader Giorgia Meloni Italy’s first female prime minister. He would also be the first far-right leader since Benito Mussolini came to power in Italy a hundred years ago.

Carlo Ciccioli, president of Fratelli d’Italia in Le Marche, eastern Italy, told CNBC that the party’s surge in popularity has been “lost in the rest of Italy” and that the party is ready to govern.

“Right now we are probably the biggest party in the country – only Sunday’s vote can confirm that, not any poll. Why do I think Fratelli d’Italia will get through? Because our leadership is one Giorgia Meloni is prepared both culturally and politically,” he told CNBC for Joumanna Bercetche.

The Fratelli d’Italia party was founded in 2012, but has its roots in Italy’s 20th-century neo-fascist movement that emerged after the death of fascist leader Mussolini in 1945.

After various iterations, the group, including Giorgia Meloni, broke away from Berlusconi’s People’s Party of Freedom (or PdL) party to launch Fratelli d’Italia. Its name refers to the first words of the Italian national anthem.

The party has grown in popularity since then and is now ahead of the populist Lega party, having struck a chord with sections of the public concerned about immigration (Italy is the destination of many migrant boats crossing the Mediterranean), the country’s relationship with the EU and the economy.

Analysts say the party’s popularity was also due to its decision not to participate in Draghi’s recent broad-based coalition. This set Meloni apart “as an outsider in the political system and gained more media visibility as the only opposition figure,” Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of risk consultancy Teneo, said in a recent note.

Roots and politics

Politically, Fratelli d’Italia has often been described as “neo-fascism” or “post-fascism”, reflecting the nationalist, nativist and anti-immigration stance of Italy’s Fascist era. Meloni, however, claims to have rid the party of fascist elements, saying in the summer that the Italian right “has already consigned fascism to history for decades.”

Nevertheless, its politics are, to put it mildly, socially conservative, with the party opposing gay marriage and promoting traditional “family values”, with Meloni saying in 2019 that his mission was to defend “God, country and family”.

70 governments in 77 years: why Italy changes governments so often

As for Europe, Fratelli d’Italia has turned its opposition to the euro, but supports EU reform to make it less bureaucratic and less influential on domestic politics. Its plan is encapsulated in one slogan: “A Europe that does less, but does it better.”

On the economic front, he has backed away from the centre-right coalition’s view that the next government should lower sales taxes on certain goods to ease the cost-of-living crisis, and has said Italy should renegotiate its Covid recovery funds with the EU.

Fratelli d’Italia has been pro-NATO and pro-Ukraine and supports sanctions against Russia, unlike Lega, who is ambivalent about these measures.

However, the party has also been friendly to one of the EU’s main opponents, Hungarian President Viktor Orban, supporting the strongman after a European Parliament resolution ruled that Hungary could no longer be defined as a democracy.

Center-left politicians fear that relations with the rest of Europe will change under Meloni’s government. Enrico Letta, head of the Democratic Party, told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick that Italy has two options when it comes to Europe: stay at the top of the economy and governance, or “retreat.”

“[The] the first option is to maintain their position in the “first division”. The first division means Brussels and Germany, France, Spain, the great powers of Europe, the founders, like us. {Another option is to be relegated to the second league with Poland and Hungary, choosing to stay with them against Brussels, Berlin, Paris and Madrid,” he said at the Ambrosetti Economic Forum in early September.

“I think it would be a disaster for Italy to choose the second division,” he said.

Italy's Letta says the country was on the right track and hopes to convince voters to stay the course

Some have described Meloni as a political chameleon, with analysts noting changes in his political stance over time.

“There is … the question of who will lead Meloni’s government: the one who praised Hungary’s Viktor Orban or the one who supported Mario Draghi’s anti-Russian stance?” Teneo Wolfango Piccoli said in early September.

“The sovereign who called for Italy to leave the euro, or the reassuring leader who took a more conventional line towards Europe during the election campaign? The populist who promoted the idea of ​​a maritime blockade in the Mediterranean to stop the illegal influx of migrants… .or the more responsible conservative politician who spoke to the question of Europe about the solution?,” he said.

Italy's debt-to-GDP ratio is the second highest in the euro area

This being Italy (a country that has infamously had 69 governments since the Second World War), expect some instability and confusion after the vote, not least because divisions between the FdI, Lega and Forza Italia are likely to emerge. which form a right-wing alliance.

“Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi are difficult coalition partners who will want to tussle after (likely) voting day, highlighting policy differences, including on issues such as fiscal discipline, pensions and Russian sanctions. Political differences and personal rivalries will come to the fore soon after the vote, causing turbulence and undermining effectiveness of the new CEO,” added Piccoli.