A Victory for Europe’s Right in Italy

By: Joseph Solis-Mullen

As predicted, Italy made history Sunday, electing its first ever female Prime Minister. Winning a preponderance of the votes cast, the Brothers of Italy’s Georgia Meloni will presumably take the helm of the E.U.’s third largest economy at the head of a coalition right wing government. Facing a daunting economic and geopolitical environment, Meloni’s government-in-waiting hopes its promised mix of policies aimed at supporting households and businesses while toeing the line against Russia will curry favor with Italian voters and the leadership in Brussels.

Or, as CNN and any number of their trusted media allies saw fit to put it in the immediate aftermath: “Georgia Meloni claims victory to become Italy’s most far-right prime minister since Mussolini.”

Cue eye roll.

Much like the also recently victorious Swedish Democrats, the Brothers of Italy and other right-wing populist parties across Europe gave voice to voters’ frustrations over inept policy decisions made by distant elites, whether in the capitals of their respective countries or in Brussels.

In cooperation with the other parties of the coalition, such as the League and Forza Italia, Meloni’s Brothers of Italy proposes supporting the “traditional family unit,” opposing abortion, and securing Italy’s borders, while continuing to support Ukraine in its conflict with Russia.

The last was a particularly contentious point and the subject of much speculation through the spring and summer, when it became clear the Brothers were going to pick up the pieces of the Italian right that had fragmented following the League’s break with the group in 2018. With Europe being absolutely battered by the energy price inflation resultant from sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine, several prominent members of the coalition had voiced a mix of concern, that the sanctions were hurting Italians rather than Russians, and opposition to continuing the policy of the Draghi government, backing continued fighting rather than negotiation.

A full decade of crises has expanded the coercive powers of the E.U. significantly, however. Floating a range of potential carrots over the summer, hinting at a secret plan to hold down Italian bond yields over what is sure to be a terrible winter, by July the Brothers had already effectively made the decision to concede on the major points of European policy in exchange for aid. Apparently not satisfied, or just looking to rub it in, European Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen let it be known that if the new Italian government after all decided to “go in a different direction” the E.U. “had tools” for applying pressure.

Despite the expressions of public outrage, the comment provoked from, among others League leader Matteo Salvini, the Italy Meloni and her coalition are inheriting is a mess. From government finances to demographic oblivion, sky-rocketing prices, waves of incoming migrants and a structurally disadvantaged private sector, with a possible five years in power stretching out before them the new government in Rome will likely try to put off any confrontation with Brussels as the ECB is the only thing standing between Italians and freezing and the government and its financial solvency.

As such, little is likely to change. Voters seemed to know as much. For all the media hysteria, Italians weren’t flocking to the polls: an historic low 64 percent turned out.

One who didn’t, according to the Wall Street Journal, was a café owner whose restaurant had survived both World Wars and COVID but was now considering closing up permanently after receiving his utility bill: up from a few thousand euros a year ago to literally tens of thousands today. There was no one he saw worth voting for, according to the Journal’s report.

Indeed.

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