Tonight, as had been widely predicted by polls and various experts, the coalition of centre-right parties led by Giorgia Meloni overwhelmingly won Italian general elections, achieving large majorities in both houses of parliament.
By the end of October, as required by Italian Constitution, President Sergio Mattarella will appoint Giorgia Meloni as Prime Minister. Meloni will be, at 45, the first female Prime Minister in Italy.
Brothers of Italy, the party she founded in 2012 after a split from Silvio Berlusconi’s ‘Forza Italia’, collects the legacy of post-fascist parties.
For decades, post-fascists were a minority in the Italian Parliament but, in 1994, they formed an alliance with the center-right coalition led first by Silvio Berlusconi and later by Matteo Salvini. This alliance remained frozen between 2018 and today, since two governments (Conte and Draghi) were formed that included center-right forces: Salvini’s League in the first Conte government and both Salvini and Berlusconi’s Forza Italia in the Draghi government. During this period, Brothers of Italy decided to remain in opposition.
Thanks to the center-right alliance, a very young Giorgia Meloni became, between 2008 and 2011, youth and sports minister under Berlusconi’s government. Since that moment Meloni has not held any other role in the executive.
The ‘tricolour flame’ symbol of Brothers of Italy, whose genesis is controversial and unclear, is believed by many to be a representation of the torch on Benito Mussolini’s tomb in his home village, Predappio.
Brothers of Italy conforms as one of the well-established European right-wing populist parties: extremely defensive towards immigrants, adherent to traditional religious doctrines, against the legalisation of cannabis and euthanasia, against civil unions/marriages for homosexual couples, critical of abortion rights, connected with the movement of Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, Orbàn, Le Pen, and with a very recent past of proximity to Putin, shared with allies Salvini and Berlusconi.
In the wake of what is happening in other European countries, Italy also confirms a decrease in voter turnout to 64%, down from 73% of last general election. Volatility of votes, which move quickly from one party to another, is also confirmed. Brothers of Italy in fact goes from 4% in 2018 to 25% today.
What is expected to happen now?
Anticipating a probable victory with consequent appointment as prime minister, Meloni’s campaign has moderated, toning down some of her more heated and classic tones. In particular, sovereignist views and criticism of European institutions were not among the topics that emerged in Meloni’s election campaign.
Meloni knows she is taking charge of a country with growing economic difficulties, which is heading into a winter of severe increases in energy tariffs, raw material costs and inflation.
It is unlikely that Meloni can significantly shift Italy’s international positioning, considering 1) how much the country will need European Union funds in order not to be overwhelmed by the effects of the covid19 crisis and the war in Ukraine and 2) that she still needs the support of Forza Italia party that seems to remain firmly anchored to NATO and the EU.
What can be expected is, as a result of the prominence of Brothers of Italy in the center-right coalition, a colder attitude of Italian future government towards European institutions and NATO, probably soliciting a compromise with Putin.
However, the feeling is that the crucial decisions of this historic moment will not be taken in Rome, nor in Berlin, Paris, Madrid or Brussels but in Moscow, Beijing and Washington. In these three capitals it will be determined whether there will be more war or less war in the coming months and what kind of war we will have.
The European Union is increasingly proving to be a collection of countries whose intergovernmental institutions represent an accumulation of national interests and/or partisan interests, unable to define a common foreign policy, let alone a coherent strategic positioning.
This state of affairs, aka the scarce relevance of European countries in international politics, cannot change unless European countries take the historic step to stop using intergovernmental treaties to reach unity in their continent, as they did since the end of World War II onwards, and build a federal union with a true federal constitution instead.
Just consider that, in Italy, the center-right coalition that will rule the country reached 44% of the votes, including the votes of non-sovereignists forces, mainly due to the fact that one third of the seats are allocated through a first-past-the-post system. Giorgia Meloni success does not mean that the majority of Italians would be against a true European federation if they understand that this 1) would overcome the institutional problems, inefficiency and political incapacity of the EU, while 2) maintaining the autonomy, traditions, institutions and particularities of each member state.
A strong federal autonomy with decisional powers over a limited set of common interests and full autonomy on all other questions, that is exactly how truly built federations work (USA, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Austria, Germany and others).
European political future will be federal or will be division and irrelevance. Where division and irrelevance prevail, disappointment and populism grow. In Italy and in other countries.
This article has been originally published on Swedish Liberal Debatt on September 26th, 2022.