Italy election: Voters ready to elect Meloni, far-right Fratelli d’Italia

ROME – Italy is gearing up for a norm-breaking election on Sunday that is expected to give the country its first female prime minister – and its far-right government since the fall of Mussolini.

The vote is predicted to win a coalition that includes two far-right forces, including Giorgia Meloni’s once-fringe Fratelli d’Italia party, which vows to defend “traditional” social values ​​and close routes to undocumented migrants. And push back against the “obscure bureaucracy” of Brussels.

The rise of Meloni and the far-right could eventually become an epochal event in European politics — pushing Italy into a liberal camp with Poland and Hungary — where zigzags are the norm in Rome, where leaders find it difficult to hold on to power and a typical government lasts no more than 400 days. Maloney faces immediate tests at home and in Europe, fueled by rising energy prices and divisions within his own coalition over Russia and Ukraine.

Sunday polls only fill seats in Parliament; The Prime Minister is then chosen indirectly. But if Fratelli d’Italia emerges with more votes than any party in the divided system, it will give it to Meloni – a 45-year-old Romanian who enjoys quoting pop songs and bashing the “woke” left. Decree of the President of Italy to form a government.

A far-right politician is set to become Italy’s first female president

It is not an easy country to lead. Household wealth has rarely advanced in a generation. And a mountainous national debt means any government with missteps that scare off investors could be headed for a financial crisis. It would create high stakes when Maloney took the job, and officials in other capitals watched as he gauged his taste for disruption.

During his decade as head of the Fratelli d’Italia — the Brothers of Italy — he took some extreme positions. He advocated the dissolution of the Eurozone. He warned conspiratorially that unnamed forces were directing mass immigration to Italy in the name of “ethnic replacement”.

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But as his party expanded its support he moved clearly toward the center on some issues. Italy belongs to Europe, he says, but will fight for its interests. He has pledged to maintain Italy’s Atlantic alliances and says the country will not take an authoritarian turn. In an interview with The Washington Post this month, he promised fiscal stability and said that “those abroad” will “put forward our first budget law” as his government gets serious.

The rise of his party was the culmination of a decades-long process of image rehabilitation and moderation of political factions initiated by Mussolini loyalists after World War II. The Fratelli d’Italia was a descendant of an earlier, more radical post-fascist party. Meloni said the Italian right had long ago consigned fascism to “history,” but his detractors say his party still includes some fascist sympathizers.

Interview by Georgia Meloni for The Washington Post

Italy’s right-wing parties, united, have given themselves greater electoral gains than the fragmented left, which has failed to form a comparable coalition amid infighting. When the polls stopped two weeks before the vote, the uTrent poll showed 45.9 percent support for the right-wing bloc, compared with 28.5 for the center-left and 13.2 for the amorphous, vaguely anti-establishment Five Star Movement. Some pollsters say Five Star has made progress since then by arguing to protect their signature welfare program, known as Citizens’ Income, popular in the South. Meloni is against it.

Wolfango Piccoli, co-founder of consultancy Teneo, noted that the inroads made by the Five Stars and the far-right League’s protests made it unlikely that the right-wing coalition would win a two-thirds majority. its goals.

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Visit polling stations across Rome on Sunday for a reminder of why Italy is so hard to lead. The Italian electorate, instead of being neatly divided between left and right, is cut into countless smaller pieces – each with their own narrative of the country’s ills. There were a dozen party symbols on Sunday’s polls, and even so, many voters said they weren’t particularly interested in any option. Some of those who turned for Meloney seemed to have a more clear view of his party — but they also recently defected to his party and aren’t sure he can maintain his coherence in a coalition. Many said they were worried about how he would lead the country.

“I don’t think we’re going back to the 1920s, but that’s the basic motivation,” said Rita Tagi, 59, a tax consultant.

On the campaign trail, Enrico Letta, head of Italy’s center-left party, argued that if Italians handed power to the right, it would benefit Russian President Vladimir Putin. By cutting off energy exports – as his invasion of Ukraine falters.

While Meloni has continued to support Ukraine, other figures in his coalition have shown affection for Putin. Matteo Salvini wears a shirt with Putin’s face and signed a cooperation agreement with the ruling United Russia party in 2017; He recently questioned the effectiveness of sanctions. Silvio Berlusconi once presented Putin with a duvet cover showing him shaking hands, and a few days earlier he falsely claimed that Putin was responding to the will of his people, and that Zelensky wanted the government to “bring in decent people . . .”

Beyond Russia, Europe has reasons to be on edge about the outcome.

Within Meloni’s party there is a deep sense that European integration should be limited, and that countries should define themselves rather than take orders from Brussels. This would in theory prompt Italy to play a more obstructionist role on key issues such as migration or foreign affairs.

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For the past year and a half, Italy has been led by Mario Draghi, a former central banker who helped save the euro zone from crisis a decade ago and has a sterling reputation in Brussels.

“This is the first time that one of the major EU countries has been under the mold of someone who is not pro-Europe,” Letta told The Post.

Italy’s election will bring the far right to power. Here’s why.

On Thursday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Europe has the “tools” to fight Italy if things go “the hard way”, an apparent reference to proposed funding cuts aimed at Hungary over corruption.

Although Italy’s election results are clear, it will be weeks before a prime minister is named – only after parliament formally sits. At that time, Italian President Sergio Mattarella will begin consultations with new parliamentary leaders and representatives of parties on forming a cabinet and choosing a prime minister.

Some pollsters said turnout could be lower than 2018’s 73 percent level, which was the lowest at the time. The rapid turnover of governments—often before leaders have time to follow through on promises—has exacerbated that sense of alienation. Twice in the past three years, Italy has staved off snap elections with backroom deals to form new coalitions, as parties have shifted, joined forces, then turned against each other.

Finally such an agreement brought Draghi into a broad-based government that included every party in the Fratelli d’Italia. While Draghi was personally popular, his coalition was undone as several parties withdrew their support.

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