Italy may be forced to face Fascist past with voters poised to elect far-right government

As Italy heads to the polls this Sunday to elect its next government, the country looks set to move to the strongest right since Benito Mussolini.

Four years ago, Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, named after the opening words of the country’s national anthem, was a difficult organization with only 4% of the vote, post-fascist origin and nationalist rhetoric that is outrageously angry with most Italians.

Since then, Meloni, 45, has moved from her sisterhood in Italy’s right-wing parties, including the anti-immigrant League led by Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, to dominate them. Latest polls put the Brothers of Italy at 25% – twice that of the League – and put Meloni at the head of a right-wing coalition that could win enough votes for an unprecedented “supermajority” in parliament.

Observers say that Meloni has achieved this through understanding and patience in strategizing. A good centre-left with the main Democratic Party, a few points behind the Italian Brothers and a leader Enrico Letta received all but failure, unscathed.

“The whole center-left campaign has been ‘Vote for us because if [the right-wing coalition] Cecilia Emma Sottiletta, a professor of politics at the American University of Rome, said victory, it would be a disaster.

Meloni increases the broadcast time of the opposition

Unlike the League, Meloni has opted out of Italy’s latest coalition government led by Mario Draghi. The former European banker began to lead the country towards a post-pandemic recovery with the help of large EU funds in early 2021, until key members of the union eased the uncertainty. their support this summer and he announced he would resign.

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Meanwhile, Meloni, outside of government, was able to capture all of the opposition’s airtime as she softened her nail-hard image, publishing the autobiography that would become autobiography. best selling stories, Io Sono Giorgia, I am Giorgia.

In it, she shares stories of being bullied as a girl because of her weight, along with attitudes against what she – like Hungary’s far-right leader Viktor Orban, whose political the “illiberal” government she greatly admires – sees as the main threat to European Christian values: elite-driven political correctness, LGBT lobbies, Officials in Brusselsglobal banking conspiracies and Mediterranean “invasion” of migrants.

Observers say the prospect of Meloni becoming Italy’s next prime minister, exactly a century after Fascist leader Benito Mussolini came to power, is proof that Italy has succumbed to its Fascist past. .

But support for the hard-line leader also stems from her wisdom in projecting herself as anti-establishment and displacing the strong in a country that has been plunged into political turmoil. since the 1990s, when corruption scandals ended postwar politics. order. Since then, observers say, voters have been drawn to “new” solutions to old problems – from media billionaire Empresario Berlusconi and the anti-Five Star movement to technocrats. Draghi, originally hailed as Super Mario.

“Meloni is benefiting from the huge wave of discontent that characterizes Italian voters,” Sottiletta said. “She could be persuaded to present herself as a replacement since she hasn’t been in government for a few years.”

She’s also very charismatic, drawing crowds on jarring campaigns and possessing her political enemies on talk shows with her signature Roman satire.

A large group of people held flags with italics in front of an election sign.
Thousands of supporters gathered at the closing rally of the right-wing coalition three days before the Italian elections, with Italy’s far-right Brotherhood party led by Meloni expected to win. (Megan Williams / CBC)

‘She’s not a member of this community at all’

Meloni became politically active in her teens when she joined a group of young fighters in the post-Fascist Italian Social Movement, located on the edge of Rome’s left-wing, working-class neighborhood of Garbatella.

“She often referred to Garbatella as a way to signal that she was a woman of the nation, tough, plain-spoken, a commoner,” said neighborhood historian and author Gianni Rivolta. said. “But this is an outdated version of our neighborhood and a stereotype of the people who live here. It is true that she grew up partly here, but she is not part of the community at all. this and does not reflect it in any way.”

An elderly man in a blue sweater looking into the distance
Historian of Rome’s working-class Garbatella neighborhood, Gianni Rivolta, said Meloni often referred to that neighborhood to show she was ‘of the people’. (Megan Williams / CBC)

At the neighborhood morning food market, most locals polled said they would not vote for Meloni. But not everyone – a sign of her growing appeal beyond a nucleus of far-right followers.

Fruit seller Giasmine Sokari, who immigrated to Italy from Morocco 35 years ago, recalls Meloni and her mother shopping at her stall before they left the neighborhood. Sokari says she’s willing to vote for the far right because she supports their stance against same-sex marriage and abortion restrictions and isn’t swayed by anti-migrant rhetoric.

“We foreigners are like guests, we need to respect the rules,” she said. “I’ve never experienced racism in Italy because I respect the rules… Now it’s a mess, with people going to Italy on boats and on planes. Let’s hope it gets resolved. decide.”

A woman in a headscarf smiling.  She was standing in front of a fruit stall.
Fruit seller Giasmine Sokari is pictured in the Garbatella, Italy, Rome neighborhood in September 2022. She sells fruit to Meloni and her mother, and says she supports some of her policies. (Megan Williams / CBC)

Abandon the idea of ​​a naval blockade

Meloni’s calls for a naval blockade of the Mediterranean to push back migrants leaving North Africa, however, eased closer to the elections.

“She and Salvini really care about the cultural and religious implications of immigration,” said Roberto Menotti, political expert and editor-in-chief of Aspenia Online. “But stopping the currents across the entire Mediterranean would cost a fortune. That’s why the idea of ​​a naval blockade was dropped. It was utter madness.”

Meloni has promised that if elected, she will continue Draghi’s prudent fiscal policies and unity with the European Union and NATO in supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression. But with a recession on the horizon, soaring inflation and energy costs, and a historically large public debt, Meloni will have to give up.

An Italian neighborhood.  There are graffiti on the wall.
An image from Garbatella, the left-wing, working-class neighborhood in Rome where far-right leader Meloni grew up. (Megan William / CBC)

Menotti said if the far right forms Italy’s next government, he will be watching closely how it deals with France and Germany.

“France and Germany are Italy’s two major trading partners and have a huge weight in all the decisions made at the European Central Bank, where we borrow our money,” he said. So I wonder how, once in power, how will they deal with this diplomatic dilemma. “

Voting takes place on Sunday, with full results expected Monday morning, local time.

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