The elections in Italy will be ushering in a government whose leading party has been labeled by opposition as sovereigntist, or even neofascist.
The official results are now clear: the center-right coalition got a total of 44% of the votes, led by Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy (FdI) party with 26%. The allied Lega, led by Matteo Salvini, and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (FI), both got a disappointing 8%.
It was a political debacle for the center-left coalition – led by Democratic Party (PD) (19%), in alliance with the Greens and Left Alliance (3.6%), More Europe (2.8%), and Luigi Di Maio’s Civic Commitment (0.6%) – totaling 26%.
The choice of a solitary electoral path for the 5 Star Movement (M5S) has been rewarded with 15% and third place, though the number was double in the South – the most economically depressed area – where the measure to provide a guaranteed minimum income to the poorest still resonates.
The flailing attempt to form a “third pole” out of Carlo Calenda’s Action and Matteo Renzi Italia Viva parties, did not exceed expectations much, but it still got 8%, which may prove useful in Parliament – to whom is still unclear.
An array of parties garnering a total of 1.5% follows on the list.
Thus, Giorgia Meloni is set to become Italy’s first woman prime minister. Her party’s poll numbers have increased from only 4% in 2018 to 26% in this election.
Voters turnout, however, was at its lowest ever, less than 64%. That is 9% less than in 2018. The number of abstention in the South was even higher, with only 57.3% showing up at the polls in Sicily.
The fact that Meloni’s FdI did not participate in the last government turned out to be an advantage. She cunningly presented herself as the “responsible opposition,” even though she supported more or less all the measures proposed by the Mario Draghi’s government, which collapsed this summer because of a passive-aggressive no-vote stream first inaugurated by M5S, followed by Lega and FI.
Notwithstanding Meloni’s success, the poor performance of her allies, under the psychological threshold of the double digits, will not really enable the incoming center-right government to “reign undisturbed” – specifically, their numbers will not reach the overwhelming majority needed to modify the constitutional laws without putting it to a popular vote.
Yet the coalition numbers exceed the numbers needed to form a solid government, with Meloni at the helm and the others expected to follow.
This means that when it comes to issues that might prove divisive for the coalition – primarily foreign policy – Berlusconi and Salvini will not have a free hand, even if the two forces combined got around 17%. With regard to foreign policy, the least discussed topic during the campaign, Meloni and her allies definitely disagree. The FdI leader has pledged her allegiance to NATO and the West, Salvini was willing to lift sanctions on Russia, and Berlusconi tried to give his friend Putin a helping hand by saying he was “pushed to invade Ukraine.”
But considering Meloni’s main European allies, primarily Hungary’s Viktor Orban, along with the fascist legacy on which her party is built, and, above all, considering the electoral base on which her consent rests – the far-right – doubts remain about her alleged “Atlanticism.”
In any case, once the government starts working, both right and left will try to curry favor with the fringe parties in the eternally shifting alliances of Italian politics.
But the main theme of the campaign was the economy. FdI has already reassured the Italians: “We’re going to ask for Draghi’s help.” This makes sense, considering a large tranche of EU money is contingent on completing the structural reforms the Draghi government started.
For his part, when asked again about a second mandate “if necessary,” Mario Draghi effectively said, “thanks, but no thanks.”
But economic reforms is what Italy needs to carry out in order to get the promised help from the EU, and it will be done under the supervision of Draghi’s team.
The rest remains to be seen.
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