Wednesday

22nd Sep 2021

Far-right alarm bells for next Italian election

  • Silvio Berlusconi is now 84. Any potential coalition of his Forward Italy with the League and the Brothers of Italy would soon see a new leader emerge (Photo: Nela Lazarevic)

In less than two years, Italy will hold its next general election - and, as the hard-right League and far-right nationalist Brothers of Italy parties are rapidly gaining ground, it is highly-possible that a new populist hard-right coalition government will come to power after Mario Draghi's current government.

According to the latest opinion polls, Matteo Salvini's League party is leading with 24 percent, followed by Brothers of Italy at 18 percent.

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  • Since the 2018 election the hard-right nationalist Brothers of Italy group, led by Giorgia Meloni, has risen from barely four percent to becoming - at present - the third-largest party in the country (Photo: Wikimedia)

Since the 2018 election the nationalist Brothers of Italy group, led by Giorgia Meloni, has risen from barely four percent to becoming - at present - the third-largest party in the country.

And Silvio Berlusconi's Forward Italy [Forza Italia] group has recovered lost ground, and now stands at 6.5 percent, while the Democrats have dropped to 19 percent and the Five Star Movement are stuck at 17 percent - down from 32 percent in 2018.

According to a confident Brothers of Italy official, "In barely two months we gained nearly three percent, replacing the Five Star Movement as Italy's third-largest party. We have the potential to go well beyond 25 percent. Our move to stay at the opposition and not become part of Draghi's cabinet of national unity has proven to be winning.

"What was meant to be the 'coalition of the champions' and the moment of 'great rebirth' for Italy has ended up being a downward compromise between diverse parties. They've all sold their souls, and they're paying for this", the official concluded.

"Each day we constructively fight the government's crazy proposals, such as absurd ways to boost digital payments, and denounce the delay in direct pandemic aid from the European Commission which was supposed to be a total of over €200bn for Italy, but will hardly be €180bn at the end of the day".

Above all, Meloni's party accuses Draghi of not having yet defined a clear plan to secure the EU's recovery fund resources, with concrete pro-growth investments and measures, and of treading in the footsteps of his predecessor Giuseppe Conte.

Brothers of Italy is the only party sitting in opposition, and in recent weeks has seen its popularity rise, as disappointed voters flee from the pro-government League and from the collapsing Five Star Movement, switching allegiances in favour of Meloni.

"We are the only party not fearing an early vote - because our support grows by the day. If we [Italy] voted tomorrow, we'd be well-placed unlike all other groups who are buying time through Draghi's government to boost their voting support in view of 2023", said the Brothers of Italy source.

The official claimed that Draghi's emergency cabinet is a "ticking time-bomb" as political divides between its component coalition parties are merely "temporarily sedated".

The objective of completing the vaccination campaign, and defining a plan to efficiently deploy European direct pandemic aid, is keeping the ruling parties seemingly united in a common goal - but when tensions arise on other issues, Brothers of Italy is likely to cash-in on any quarrelling.

Andrea Ungari, a political analyst and professor of political party history at Rome's LUISS University, says - on current trends - the 2023 vote would see a clear victory for a hard rightwing coalition, set to win over 51 percent of votes if Meloni, Salvini and Berlusconi join forces.

Within such a coalition, the nationalist League and hard-right Brothers of Italy would be calling the shots, with Forward Italy lagging behind.

'Political suicide'

"The Democrat party and the Five Star Movement have committed political suicide, with the Democrats on their last chance of survival as they desperately seek a way forward. Both groups have lost their sense of direction. That further strengthens the centre-right parties that [maintain their] identity and clear programmes", said Ungari.

Polls suggest that a possible new 'Red-Yellow' alliance, between the Five Star Movement and the Democrats, plus other minor leftist groups, would barely reach 37 percent at those 2023 elections.

Even though the League's decision to become part of the Draghi government has caused it to lose rightwing supporters in favour of Meloni, Ungari noted that it has meanwhile allowed Salvini to gain support among former centre-right Forward Italy voters.

"One day Silvio Berlusoni will be out of the picture, and that's when the real battle for the mainstream-right hegemony will begin. Salvini looks to replace Berlusconi as Forward Italy's guiding star and lure his electorate".

However, the beneath-the-radar rivalry between the League, Brothers of Italy and Forward Italy is not likely to undermine their mutual benefits from a potential coalition, as officials from all three parties confirm.

A League official stressed that even though Salvini's party is supporting Draghi - by teaming up with such unlikely groups as the Democrats, Matteo Renzi's Italy Alive [Italia Viva] party and their own former allies in the Five Star Movement, it has done so solely for the sake of Italy's 'survival' - but its "natural placing" is within the coalition.

"Defeating the pandemic and stabilising the economy, supporting firms and families, is our duty. We are proving once again that the League was born as a ruling party and is fit to govern. Had the Five Star Movement not pulled the plug two years ago, putting an end to our alliance, we would have kept ruling with them. The League is responsible, reliable and sticks to its electoral mandate" the League official said.

"We strongly believe Draghi's government will last until its natural end, when the current five-year legislature terminates in 2023. Voting ahead of time is not an issue. We have been called to rule by head of state, Sergio Mattarella, and we will rule for another two years".

Author bio

Silvia Marchetti is a Rome-based freelance reporter. She covers finance, economics, travel and culture for a wide range of international media.

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