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4th Feb 2023

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Europe braces for far-right Italy This WEEK

  • Giorgia Meloni, the leader of Brothers of Italy, could be the first female prime minister in Italy’s history (Photo: Hermann Tertsch and Victor Gonzalez)
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Last week the European Parliament's turn provided the show in the European political scene, presenting EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen's energy proposals, declaring Hungary a "hybrid regime", and rushing an official to the top spot.

This week Europe is bracing for the shock of having a far-right leader head the eurozone's third largest countries — which also happens to be one of most indebted.

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Italian voters are heading to the polls next Sunday (25 September), and the country's latest far-right sweetheart and their right-wing bloc are on track to win a clear majority according to the latest polls.

The far-right Brothers of Italy party, which dominates the conservative alliance, is set to be the largest single party, and has widened its lead over the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

Giorgia Meloni, the leader of Brothers of Italy, could be the first female prime minister in Italy's history. She is backed by Matteo Salvini's League and Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia.

The parties could win an absolute majority in both chambers of parliament.

An Ipsos survey — from a week ago, because of a pre-vote polling embargo ––, put Brothers of Italy on 25.1 percent, the PD on 20.5 percent, with left-leaning 5-Star at 14.5 percent and the League on 12.5 percent.

Europe's rightwing forces hope the Italian far-right's triumph could change their fortune and catapult their parties into governments across the EU.

Persistent allegations of Russian connections might change that, although it is unlikely that this will upset the expected outcome in Italy.

The US last week said that Russia has given at least €301m ($300m) to political parties in more than two dozen countries.

Salvini, who once praised Putin as "the best statesmen currently on earth", has repeatedly denied receiving money from Russia.

Meloni also denied receiving cash from abroad, and threatened to sue a newspaper that had questioned if she had taken Russian money, Reuters reported.

Nevertheless, Hungarian media already reported prime minister Viktor Orbán telling supporters in a closed door meeting that he counts on the new Italian government in holding up the rollover of sanctions against Russia in the fall.

Freeze

Speaking of Hungary, the country is facing a freeze in EU funds as the commission proposed on Sunday (18 September) a suspension of subsidies because of consistent concerns over rule of law and corruption.

On rule of law, EU affairs ministers will meet in Brussels to discuss the commission's rule of law report from July.

Ministers are set to focus on justice systems, anti-corruption framework, media pluralism and checks and balances in democracies in the bloc.

Queen gone

On Monday, the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II will take place in London, and EU Commission president von der Leyen is expected to be present.

On Tuesday (20 September), von der Leyen will be in New York, along with European Council president Charles Michel, at the United Nation's general assembly, where they will meet UN secretary general António Guterres.

Editorial

Background reads: Italy's election

With Italy heading to the ballot boxes this Sunday, let's take a look at what EUobserver has published that can help understand the country's swing to the (far)-right.

Podcast

How Europe helped normalise Georgia Meloni

Should Georgia Meloni be considered neofascist? She insists she's a patriotic conservative. And indeed, if she's prime minister, she's expected to respect Italy's democracy — if only to keep money flowing from the EU.

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