Written by Jasper Danielson – Edited by Ran Cheng
Italy has experienced considerable political instability for the better part of the last century. Having just elected its 70th government since the end of the Second World War, Italy averages a new government once every 13 months. Much of this instability has been credited to two things: 1) precedence given to short-term consensus rather than far-sighted administration, and 2) financial instability. Consequently, Italy’s government has been both inconsistent and volatile.
Earlier this year, the resignation of Mario Draghi’s government left Italy no choice but to hold a snap election: “an election that is announced suddenly and unexpectedly”. Once again, the doors were open, and the election for a new government is set to take place. This time Giorgia Meloni, the clear winner in September’s elections, appears to be next in line as Prime Minister. But who is Giorgia Meloni, and what does her prominent rise to power imply for Italy?
Meloni, founder and leader of the Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia, FdI), is described as a charismatic politician who has sought to brand her party as the country’s “dominant conservative force”. However, both Meloni and the Brothers of Italy appear to have more fascist ties than they let on. Most notably, the FdI has its roots in the Italian Social Movement (MSI), a neo-fascist party founded after the Second World War by one of Mussolini’s Chief of Staff. Thus, the MSI was home to both fascist officials and supporters of Mussolin’s ideologies. The link between these two parties is most obviously seen in the similarities between their respective logos: the FdI’s logo features the same red, white and green flame that was sported by the MSI. However, the resemblance between their emblems are not their only connection; Meloni herself was a member of the MSI’s youth branch in her adolescence, a fact that she does not shy away from to this day. Shortly after this time, in her early career, she even stated outright that “Mussolini was a good politician” (translated from Italian to English), claiming that everything he did, he did for Italy. She extended this claim, by expressing her belief that this level of dedication has been absent in every other Italian politician over the last 50 years, once again insinuating praise towards Mussolini.
Although Meloni has since gone on to criticize the dictator, her party has never renounced its fascist roots. She also remains in alliance with Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini, two politicians known for their far-right ideologies. These individuals both have close ties to Russia and have openly supported Vladimir Putin since the beginning of Russia’s war with Ukraine. Moreover, Berlusconi, former Italian Prime Minister himself, has “made harsh anti-immigrant statements, routinely trivialised Mussolini’s crimes and appointed lifelong neo-fascists to top jobs”. Salvini, along the same lines, is vehemently opposed to immigration and has insinuated support for Mussolini through a cryptic tweet referencing the former dictator on his birthday.
Background and affiliations aside, Meloni is a passionate nationalist and populist. “The problem of migrant arrivals on our shores must be tackled at its source, with a ‘naval blockade,’” said Meloni, after calling for the Italian navy to blockade the north African coast. She declared that only those who are able to prove their refugee status should be permitted to enter. Unsurprisingly, Meloni holds very eurosceptic views, claiming that she wants to put Italy first. “It doesn’t mean having a negative stance toward others, it means having a positive one for ourselves that starts off from the defence of national interests, because everyone else is doing it,” Meloni contended. Yet, her ‘traditional’ ideology is not exclusive to her patriotism — Meloni is also in opposition to the LGBTQ. “I believe a child has the right to grow up with a father and a mother,” Meloni argued in response to an LGBTQ activist. “Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby”, asserts the set-to-be-leader. Her opinions are certainly very divisive — this becomes particularly apparent when looking at her following. Those who support her flock to her rallies, while those who disagree with her claim that she is a “danger to the democratic balance in Europe”. With such a polarizing individual at the forefront of one of the European Union’s largest economies, uncertainty is bound to follow. Although she has amassed a considerable amount of public support, Italy’s history of political instability may very well supersede her recent victories. On the one hand, Meloni says that she will not try to weaken LGBTQ rights, and that her nationalist stance will not jeopardize the Covid relief funds that Italy has been receiving from the European Union since the onset of the pandemic, among other promises. On the other hand, Meloni’s government is comprised of openly anti-LGBTQ officials, and Eurosceptic advocates. Thus, it is currently unclear whether Meloni’s affirmations are a reflection of her true intentions as a politician, or a mere way in which she hopes to gain public approval. In any case, Giorgia Meloni’s rise to power unequivocally represents a step backwards for society, to a time characterized by outdated philosophies and obsolete traditions.
Antonio, J. (2014, May 9). Italiano: Giorgia Meloni a Sanremo per la Campagna Elettorale per le Elezioni Europee del 2014 (Italia) e Comunali [Image]. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Giorgia_Meloni_2014.JPG
Bastasin, C. (2022, March 9). Even after Mattarella’s reelection, Italy’s political system remains unstable. Brookings. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2022/02/14/even-after-mattarellas-reelection-italys-political-system-remains-unstable/
Clarke, H. (2018, July 30). Italy’s Salvini channels Mussolini in tweet on late dictator’s birthday. CNN. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/30/europe/salvini-mussolini-italy-intl
DODMAN, B. (2022, September 26). ‘mother, Italian, Christian’: Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s far-right leader on the cusp of power. France 24. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.france24.com/en/europe/20220924-mother-italian-christian-giorgia-meloni-italy-s-far-right-leader-on-the-cusp-of-power
DODMAN, B. (2022, September 28). A ‘seismic’ shift: Will Meloni’s Italy turn its back on Europe? France 24. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.france24.com/en/europe/20220928-will-the-new-far-right-government-of-italy-s-meloni-turn-its-back-on-europe
The Economist Newspaper. (n.d.). Why does Italy go through so many governments? The Economist. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2021/01/31/why-does-italy-go-through-so-many-governments
Guardian News and Media. (2018, August 9). How Matteo Salvini pulled Italy to the far right. The Guardian. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/aug/09/how-matteo-salvini-pulled-italy-to-the-far-right
Guardian News and Media. (2022, October 1). Giorgia Meloni says she will put Italy first in tackling high energy costs. The Guardian. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/01/giorgia-meloni-says-she-will-put-italy-first-in-tackling-high-energy-costs
Guardian News and Media. (2022, September 24). Giorgia Meloni is a danger to Italy and the rest of Europe | Roberto Saviano. The Guardian. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/commentisfree/2022/sep/24/giorgia-meloni-is-a-danger-to-italy-and-the-rest-of-europe-far-right
Guardian News and Media. (2022, September 26). Italy’s Drift to the far right began long before the rise of Giorgia Meloni | David Broder. The Guardian. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/sep/26/italy-far-right-before-giorgia-meloni-berlusconi-brothers-of-italy
Italian leadership nominee calls for blockade on Libya to stop migrants. Libya Update News. (2022, September 27). Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://libyaupdate.com/italian-leadership-nominee-calls-for-blockade-on-libya-to-stop-migrants/
Kazmin, A. (2022, August 19). Italy election frontrunner says she will not put covid funds at risk. Subscribe to read | Financial Times. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.ft.com/content/50c53dc4-4976-453f-959e-512dd9454022
Kirby, P. (2022, September 26). Giorgia Meloni: Italy’s far-right wins election and vows to govern for all. BBC News. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-63029909
NBCUniversal News Group. (2022, September 27). LGBTQ Italians on alert as right-wing alliance triumphs in election. NBCNews.com. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-politics-and-policy/lgbtq-italians-alert-right-wing-alliance-triumphs-election-rcna49593
Person, & Balmer, C. (2022, September 26). Nationalist Meloni set to smash Italy’s glass ceiling, become premier. Reuters. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/meloni-former-far-right-activist-heads-italian-pms-office-2022-08-29/
Person. (2022, September 23). Same-sex parenting not normal, says aide to Italy’s Meloni. Reuters. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/same-sex-parenting-not-normal-says-aide-italys-meloni-2022-09-23/
Press, T. A., & Winfield, N. (2022, September 26). How Giorgia Meloni’s party of neo-fascist roots won big in Italy. CTVNews. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.ctvnews.ca/world/how-giorgia-meloni-s-party-of-neo-fascist-roots-won-big-in-italy-1.6084455
Schifrin, N., & Aranda, T. C. (2022, September 26). Right-wing victory in Italian election raises concerns across Europe. PBS. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/right-wing-victory-in-italian-election-raises-concerns-across-europe
Snap election. Cambridge Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/snap-election
TheAdvocateMag. (2022, September 29). The anti-LGBTQ+ views of Italy’s likely new leader, Giorgia Meloni. ADVOCATE. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.advocate.com/world/2022/9/29/anti-lgbtq-views-italys-likely-new-leader-giorgia-meloniWinfield, N. (2022, September 26). How a party of neo-fascist roots won big in Italy. AP NEWS. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://apnews.com/article/elections-rome-italy-6aa9fcb003071c307190a4053f199d98