By: Virginia Mutz
In the recent Italian election, Giorgia Meloni and her far-right party, Brothers of Italy, secured the Prime Minister position in the general election, winning 26 percent of the population’s vote. Along with the Brothers of Italy, Meloni’s coalition consists of FDI ally Matteo Salvini, leader of the anti-immigration League party, and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing Forza Italia party. The reaction to Meloni’s historic win has varied both domestically and globally in a distinct way. Within Italy, the horror is palpable, while other countries around the world seem to be attempting to put their best foot forward in order to maintain positive international relations.
Voter turnout, in general, was the lowest it has ever been in Italian history. It fell to around 64 percent, about 9 points lower than the last election in 2018. Many individuals theorize the dramatic decrease, but most came to the conclusion that Italian citizens are not happy with the government and therefore feel that their votes do not matter.
Based on the votes that did come in, one in four of those who voted in Sunday’s elections backed Meloni and the Brothers of Italy, the “fascist” rooted group. To the surprise of many, nothing has changed dramatically in the past week but it is a known fact that Meloni’s real challenge comes in creating a lasting government. Lorenzo De Sio, head of the Italian electoral studies center, CISI, said, “Her challenge will be to turn this electoral success into a governing leadership… that can last.” To garner a majority is not impossible, but to break away from Italy’s notoriously unstable political system, with almost 70 governments since 1846 and three different governments since the last elections in 2018, will be difficult.
Italy’s shift to the far right with Meloni’s win immediately transformed the European geopolitical reality, placing Meloni eurosceptic party in a position of power in Italy, a founding country of the European Union and its third-largest economy. These elections and Meloni’s power come at a crucial time for Europe, as the country faces Russia’s war in Ukraine and the soaring energy costs that have affected Italian citizens.
Meloni has begun outlining her next steps for this government rebuild. She quickly addressed the public in Milan after her win, highlighting the need to put national interests first. Meloni claimed that Italy must help itself before it helps others: “This does not mean a negative attitude to Europe but a positive attitude to ourselves,” Meloni said. “We must start from the national interests because others do it.” It seems that the Meloni-led government is expected to follow Italy’s current foreIgn policy and continue to support Ukraine by supplying weapons, even if those within her coalition, such as Berlusconi and Salvini, disagree. What will differ is Meloni’s aggressive anti-immigration policies, especially involving asylum seekers leaving North African shores for Italy as well as a less active interest in science.
The reactions from Italy and other countries around the world surrounding Meloni’s victory have varied. Globally, countries seem to be putting a positive spin on the news of Italy’s current Prime Minister. For example, the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, stated, “Following yesterday’s Italian elections, we are eager to work with Italy’s government on our shared goals: supporting a free and independent Ukraine, respecting human rights, and building a sustainable economic future. Italy is a vital ally, strong democracy, and valued partner.” French President Emmanuel Macron’s office stated, “As neighbors and friends, we must continue to work together. It is within Europe that we will overcome our common challenges.” Important political figures from other countries, such as Hungary and Spain, shared similar sentiments.
The domestic reaction has differed dramatically. Enrico Letta, leader of the Center-Left Democratic party, stated that the “Italian men and women have chosen and it was a clear, stark choice: Italy will have a right-wing government. The trend that emerged two weeks ago in Sweden is today also confirmed in Italy. Today is a sad day for Italy and Europe, and tough days are ahead of us.” He followed up these grave words with his resignation. Carlo Calenda, leader of the centrist Azione Party, shared the same sentiment as Letta: “Italians have chosen to give a solid majority to the sovereignist right. We consider this a dangerous and uncertain prospect. We’ll see if Meloni will be capable of governing; we will be a tough but constructive opposition.” Even celebrities, such as Damiano David, lead singer of the Maneskin rock band, took to Instagram stating,“Today is a sad day for my country.”
It seems that while some countries may not agree with Meloni’s politics, the drive to stay as a united front against global enemies and problems remains the most important prerogative. Italian political figures focus on the detrimental impact Meloni’s political choices will have on the country as a whole, while other countries just want to maintain the peace.
Overall, Meloni and her party’s direct impact on Italy, whether positive or negative, remains to be seen. With time, her intentions, and political goals, will become clear. One must remain positive that the general public knew what they were doing during the general election and hope that Meloni’s “fascist” past is exactly that, the past.