After the electoral victory of the right-wing alliance around the post-fascist party Fratelli d’Italia of the likely future Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, people at home and abroad are worried about how the country will continue. Will Italy join Hungary and Poland in the EU? Will the heavily indebted country get even more into debt? And will the coalition hold up at all?
What does Meloni’s election victory mean for the European Union?
It is clear that the EU Commission and the other member states will have to contend with another nationalistically governed country alongside Hungary and Poland. During the election campaign, Meloni threatened the EU several times: “Now the fun is over!” She should remain true to this announcement.
Meloni demands that Italian legislation must take precedence over EU law in the future. She also wants the EU to only deal with the major common issues and otherwise leave the member states largely alone. Berlin and Paris in particular have to be prepared for confrontations because “Italy wants to be an equal member in the future.” For years, the policy of the Italian right has been based, among other things, on presenting Italy as “a colony of France or Germany”. And so Meloni repeatedly claimed that the federal government was against a gas price cap because Germany still got the gas from Russia at a much lower price.
But doesn’t Italy depend on EU money?
Yes, Italy needs the money from the European Recovery Fund, which was set up to cushion the consequences of the pandemic. Unlike Hungary and Poland, Italy is a net contributor to the EU. But it is also the country that will receive the largest amount from the reconstruction fund, at almost 200 billion euros.
The fact that the national-populist Lega of ex-Interior Minister Matteo Salvini achieved less than 9 percent in the elections gives Meloni legroom on this issue. She herself is calling for the reconstruction fund to be revised, but she also knows that she shouldn’t take a confrontational course with Brussels at this point – not only is Italy dependent on EU money given its debt ratio of 150 percent. It would also be fatal to send signals of unreliability to the financial markets. So she will do everything to keep the finances under control. Salvini’s demand for higher new debt and a flat tax of 15 percent for everyone will therefore not exist. According to reports, Meloni has been looking for a suitable economy minister for some time who would not put off Brussels.
Will Italy now go on a cuddling course with Russia?
Like many European right-wing radicals, Meloni has maintained good relations with the Russian president in the past, but stressed during the election campaign that she would stick to the sanctions against Russia if she won the election. A saying like that of Berlusconi that Putin only wanted to advance to Kyiv in order to “bring decent politicians to government” is unimaginable for her. From within the opposition, it also supported the decision to supply arms to Ukraine and backed NATO without ifs or buts during the election campaign. Their relationship with the US is close, although it is mainly based on a close relationship with the Republicans. Her Fratelli d’Italia party, on the other hand, has no close ties to Putin’s United Russia party, with which the Lega signed an agreement in 2017.
Will this coalition also disintegrate?
The fact that both the Lega and Forza Italia stayed below 9 percent gives Meloni some room for manoeuvre. Nevertheless, despite the unity staged in the election campaign, governing could become exhausting. Even before the elections, Berlusconi let it be known that his party was clearly pro-EU, “and if the gentlemen, our allies, in whom I have full confidence, take a different direction, then we’re out.” Without Berlusconi’s party, however, the coalition could collapse. How the Lega or its chairman Salvini will behave is unclear. Given the election result, it’s not even certain that Salvini will remain Lega boss.
What about domestic politics?
That is the question that worries many opponents of the legal alliance in Italy. Democratic Party leader Enrico Letta has geared much of his electoral strategy to warning Italians of the consequences of a right-wing government. For a time he also used a pictorial representation: black for the right camp, red for his.
But the specter of post-fascism has not impressed voters: too ideological, too distant from their everyday concerns: skyrocketing energy prices, rising inflation. In addition, the Democratic Party has governed almost all of the past 11 years. She would have had enough time to implement the promises she made during the election campaign.
The first consequences of a right-wing government will be seen above all in domestic politics. For example in terms of immigration and civil rights. Meloni has repeatedly spoken of a sea blockade and camps for migrants in North Africa. These are intended to determine whether they have a right to enter the EU. Laws like the one that grants Italian citizenship to foreign children after primary school, or that against discrimination in favor of the LGBTQ community, will not happen. And abortion could also become more difficult. Here the new government is likely to try to put Italy in a row with Hungary and Poland.