Will she be the next Italian Prime Minister?
After 17 months of relative stability, Italian politics has once again become a roller coaster ride, and a country that has had 18 governments in 34 years will soon have another. With the collapse of Mario Draghi’s coalition, a new election will probably take place in September or October.
Who will lead this government? It’s too early to tell, given the rapid evolution of Italian politics, but it’s a good time to take a closer look at the charismatic Giorgia Melonthe leader of the most popular party in Italy today.
Four years ago, populist provocateur Matteo Salvini was widely seen as Italy’s prime minister-in-waiting, until a series of political missteps left him in opposition. Then the arrival of COVID in 2020 devastated Italy and its economy, blunting the strength of Salvini’s anti-EU message by leaving the country dependent on outside aid.
Draghi, former president of the European Central Bank and formidable technocrat, became the man of the hour and formed a government of national unity in February 2021. Faced with the need to work with the EU on financial aid for his country, Draghi reached out to both left and right. The center-left Democratic Party and the anti-establishment Five Star party agreed to join his coalition. Basically, Lega too, Salvini’s party.
That’s when Salvini and Lega started falling in the polls. Some voters who liked his anti-immigrant slaps and attacks on EU leaders decided Salvini had sold himself by joining Draghi’s government, which agreed to EU reform demands in return for bailout funds. pandemic rescue.
Seeking a more genuine far-right alternative, many of those voters turned to the Brotherhood of Italy, the largest party in parliament to remain outside Draghi’s coalition.
The leader of this party, Giorgia Meloni, began to rise in the polls.
Who is she? At just 45, Meloni has more than two decades of experience in Italian politics with his bare hands. As a teenager, she joined the youth group within the Movimento Sociale Italiano (Italian Social Movement), a newly reconstituted fascist party inspired by Benito Mussolini. Passed to the right-wing National Alliance, she became Minister of Youth in one of the many governments led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in 2008. In 2014, she participated in the founding of the Brothers of Italy.
On immigration, the party has taken an even harder line than the Lega. The Brotherhood called for blockades to prevent migrants from reaching Italian ports. Meloni wants to increase the birth rate in Italy to reduce the need for migrant labor. She is called in defense of “God, country and family“, an old-school fascist slogan.
Meloni has never favored an Italian exit from the EU, but she said Italy should “re-discuss” existing EU treaties and the single currency. She called for changing the Italian constitution to give Italian law priority on European law.
Coming to compromises. If Meloni, or anyone else in his party, becomes prime minister, his attitude towards the EU and its institutions will come under intense scrutiny, both in Italy and across Europe. This is yet another time when Italy’s post-pandemic economic recovery means cooperating with the EU to gain access to COVID relief ‘disbursement funds’. And that depends on the continued reform of Italy’s economic management.
Meloni took a strong stance in support of Ukraine and EU efforts to help that country repel the Russian invasion. It demonstrates that his political pragmatism will prevail over nationalism when necessary to bolster his party’s credibility as head of government.
But she will certainly have to prove to skeptics that her traditional Euroscepticism would prevent Italy from getting the EU help it needs to restore the health of its economy. And going from here to there could prove a punitive process for Italy’s still fragile economy.