Italian far-right Meloni Moment

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I answered questions from Isabell Hoffmann of Bertelsmann Stiftung about Sunday’s Italian elections and Giorgia Meloni’s (pictured) far-right Brothers of Italy party, which won the largest share of the vote:

No, I’m not, because the balance of power works well in Italy. The President and the Constitutional Court have proven to be reliable institutions to limit the power of the executive and parliament – ​​when necessary.

For example, they have worked well to retain a Silvio Berlusconi in the past. So I don’t think we’ll see a situation like in Hungary or Poland. Moreover, I don’t believe that Meloni is interested in rocking the boat of Italy’s international relations – with European partners, European institutions or NATO.

However, if you care about poverty, if you care about the welfare state, if you care about migration, these are going to be tough times for you. This government will most likely make some negative changes.

EA/EuroFile VideoCast: Italy is sliding towards far-right autocracy

On the budgetary level, the new coalition will not have much leeway. During the campaign, the parties talked about reducing taxes and increasing pensions, but they will not be able to do it. They could cut some education or health spending, but not enough to deliver on those campaign promises. But opting for law and order, opting for migration costs you nothing. So most likely, that’s what they will do to please their electorate.

He doesn’t sit well with all Italians. She just has to please the right-wing electorate. She knows most Italians would never vote for her. She doesn’t need to deal with these people. She only has to satisfy the electorate of her coalition.

How did she win then?

Some reasons converge. First, the right-wing coalition tends to be dominant among voters, and has been for three decades. Moreover, the right again managed to pull together and field unitary candidates across the country – unlike the left, which failed to do so and was plagued with infighting. Given the prevailing electoral law, unity and the ability to create broad alliances were absolutely essential.

Within the right, Meloni could position himself as the new face. Berlusconi is literally old (86), and his party is clearly a thing of the past. Salvini has been in government since 2018 and has played his hand too much. Moreover, both were involved in Mario Draghi’s government of national unity, so they agreed to govern with the centre-left.

Draghi himself was highly respected and very popular, but he was not on the ballot. When he took over as prime minister in 2021, he announced that he would be prime minister for one term and would not stand for election if his government fell.

That’s exactly what he did, which surprised me. Meloni, however, always stayed out of government. As Leader of the Opposition, she was entitled to a certain place on television and appeared as a consistent and coherent right-wing voice that would not “get into bed” with the left. She capitalized on it.

In the end, she won because she “killed” her coalition partners. It was she who kidnapped their voters. She also garnered votes from the right-wing Five Star Movement faction. But mainly, his winnings came from Forza Italia and the League. Absorbing your coalition partners has proven to be very effective in this case, but it is also dangerous. His allies, and in particular the League, will make his life in government very difficult, once the honeymoon period is over.

Two hundred billion euros are at stake. She will not want to lose them. This would not be forgiven and could even mean the end of her as PM.

Eurosceptics in Italy have for years lamented that Europe is doing nothing for the country. Then times changed. As prime minister, Conte secured a large sum of money from the Recovery Fund – money the country badly needs. What she needs to do now is implement the reforms that have been agreed upon to bring that money home, and it’s almost inconceivable that she won’t, no matter how hard it is.

Italy has a debt to GDP ratio of 152% and the country’s credibility hangs by a thread. She does not want to scare the financial markets. She does not want to scare the United States. And if it scares its European partners too much, this urgently needed money risks being lost.

She also knows that popularity is volatile these days. How many superheroes have we seen come and go in recent years in Italy? There was Giuseppe Conte, who was praised for handling the pandemic and getting a big chunk of the Recovery Fund in the first place. Before him, we had Beppe Grillo, the illustrious troublemaker of Italian politics. Without forgetting Matteo Renzi, celebrated as the new prodigy of the moderate left. And it continues.

Yes, it’s Meloni time, but it can pass quickly. Her coalition partners are just waiting for her gaffe as she pulls more voters from their parties.

For this coalition, I predict a very bumpy ride. For the EU, I predict it will be a pragmatic partner on substantive and important issues.

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