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10th Dec 2022

Europe's far-right celebrates Meloni victory

  • Giorgia Meloni (l), Matteo Salvini (m), and Silvio Berlusconi (r) are likely to form a governing coalition (Photo: quirinale.it)
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Hard-right leader Giorgia Meloni's victory at Sunday's Italian elections has been met by loud celebration by the rest of the European far-right — and a more muted worry on the liberal and leftwing flank of politics.

Meloni's Brothers of Italy party — a member of the conservative rightwing European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) alliance — came top with 26 percent of the vote, ahead of her closest rival Enrico Letta from the centre-left, based on the first results.

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Letta told reporters on Monday that the far-right's victory was a "sad day for Italy and Europe".

In Budapest, the result was warmly welcomed, with prime minister Viktor Orbán already sending out letters of congratulations to Meloni, and to her rightwing allies, the leader of the League, Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi, who heads Forza Italia.

"In these difficult times, we need more than ever friends who share a common vision and approach to Europe's challenges," Balázs Orbán, close aide to the Hungarian premier tweeted.

The result was similarly hailed by Poland's premier, Mateusz Morawiecki.

The chairman of Poland's governing Law and Justice (PiS) party — which is also a member of the ECR — Jarosław Kaczyński (often called the de-facto leader of the country) declared Sunday to be "a day of hope, hope that the EU will start to change", according to news website wPolityce.

Hungary and Poland are both under EU scrutiny for backsliding on democracy and judicial freedoms, and their leaders have been hoping that the new Italian leadership will back them at EU meetings.

Deputy justice minister Michał Wójcik, who belongs to PiS's hard-right junior coalition partner United Poland, said the result was a defeat for EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

"Abnormality in the EU is ending," said Wójcik. "The rule of manipulators and lunatics in the European Commission is slowly coming to an end, he added.

France's far-right leader, Marine Le Pen, also congratulated Meloni and Salvini for "resisting threats from the union".

Her MEP, Jordan Bardella of the National Rally, said Italian voters had given von der Leyen a lesson in humility.

Von der Leyen last week said that Europe had "the tools" to respond if member states went in a "difficult direction".

Santiago Abascal, the leader of Spain's extreme-right Vox party, also congratulated Meloni's win, tweeting that "millions of Europeans are placing their hopes in Italy".

"The election success of the Fratelli d'Italia [Brothers of Italy] is a further victory for common sense. Germany, with its left-green traffic light coalition, is looking rather lonely in Europe right now" their statement said.

MEPs from the hard-right Identity and Democracy group in the European Parliament, where Salvini's League belongs, also celebrated the win.

"Italians are taking back their country. Bravissimo!", the leader of the Austrian Freedom Party's (FPÖ) delegation, Harald Vilimsky tweeted.

Germany's Alternative für Deutschland [Alternative for Germany, AfD] congratulated Meloni and her party on Monday, claiming that Germany's leftwing coalition is now alone in Europe.

Centre chill

The centre-right European People's Party (EPP) was in an uncomfortable situation on Monday, as Berlusconi's party is an EPP member.

"We are confident that Forza Italia [Forward Italy] will guide the next government into a path that serves the best interests of the Italian people as part of a strong and stable Europe," they said in a lukewarm statement.

Other parties, however, took on the opportunity to criticise the EPP.

Liberal Renew Europe group leader, French MEP Stéphane Sojourné, said if Meloni is able to govern, it is only thanks to their alliance with the so-called "moderate" right.

"Berlusconi and the EPP are the stepping stone for the extremes" he tweeted.

Spanish MEP Iratxe Garcia, who leads the Socialists and Democrats group, said that Meloni's post-fascism comes to Italy hand-in-hand and in alliance with EPP's Forward Italy and ID's League.

"Dark day for Italy and for Europe," she added.

In the meantime, the commission itself stayed muted. Spokesperson Eric Mamer only said that "we hope we'll have a constructive cooperation with new Italian authorities."

France's prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, warned to be cautious and said the news meant her country would be monitoring human rights, particularly access to abortion.

"In Europe, we have certain values and, obviously, we will be vigilant," Borne told RMC Radio and BFM TV, according to Reuters.

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