By: Virginia Mutz
Italy’s voters head to the polls this Sunday for a snap general election. It is likely that this election will mean more than just a new Prime Minister for the country. Expected to win is Giorgia Meloni, rumored “fascist,” which will mark the beginning of a far-right power controlling the government. Some may protest, while others will cheer. One can only wait until the election results come out to see the split public reaction.
Giorgia Meloni, a member of the right-wing coalition and frontrunner of Italy’s upcoming election, is seen as a “…political force so clearly against the idea of a community in Europe.” This statement comes from Enrico Letta, former Prime Minister of Italy, now serving as secretary of the Democratic Party. His fear over Meloni and her party’s potential increase in power is palpable, for good reason, but unsurprisingly not shared by all.
According to The Local, an Italian newspaper that aims to cover a variety of stories on life in Italy, experts predict that Meloni and her party, the Brothers of Italy, will pocket around 46% of the upcoming vote, almost double the expected amount of the Democratic Party (PD) and over triple the predicted amount of the populist Five Star Movement (M5S). In the past, Italy’s excessive number of political parties combined with its complex electoral system faced many criticisms. Meloni and her party provide a refreshing political stance for many frustrated Italian citizens, while simultaneously striking fear into the hearts of many citizens who fear what her party’s legislation will mean for minority groups in Italy.
Maintaining a secure, lasting, and efficient political system has never been easy in Italy, and the failures of former Prime Minister Mario Draghi only increased public scrutiny of the government. Draghi resigned from his position as Prime Minister in July 2022 after three parties within his coalition pulled their support from his work. Italy plunged into uncertainty, which paved the way for Meloni and her political agenda.
Meloni has inspired most of Italy’s population with her slogan: “God, country, and family.” Italians, angry over the rapidly increasing public debt, increased living costs, boredom with the “status quo,” and overall political instability, find Meloni’s promises very appealing. Her political agenda includes, but is not limited to, cutting taxes, raising defense spending, closing the borders to protect Italy from “Islamisation,” renegotiating European treaties to increase Rome’s political and economic power, and fighting against LGBTQ+ and abortion rights.
Her gender plays an enormous role in these elections. Not only is it a massive part of her political brand, but her election to the office of Prime Minister would make history as well, as no woman has ever held the office in its 75 years of existence.
The clear undertones of hate rhetoric within her speeches and political positions speaks to the “fascist” nature of Meloni’s party. While the Prime Minister contender vehemently denies being a “fascist”, it is a proven fact that her party was born out of the National Alliance, the successor of MSI, which was founded in 1946 by the last incarnations of Mussolini’s Italian Fascist regime. In fact, in a video recorded during Meloni’s youth, she publicly claimed that “Mussolini was a good politician, in that everything he did, he did for Italy.” These words feel like a manipulation tactic that attempts to convince the public, and Meloni herself, to accept archaic, or even hateful, viewpoints on things such as women’s rights and LQBTQ+ legislation. Letta has urged the large population of undecided voters to choose the Democratic Party or risk handing the power of a landslide victory to a woman who wishes to change Italy’s constitution, and everything the country stands for. The country is split on whether that change is necessary.
Roberto D’Alimonte, a full-time Professor of Political Science at the Department of Political Science at the University of Florence, had a diverging opinion on Meloni. Instead of going for the easy target and throwing the word “fascist” at Meloni as an insult, he stated, “The danger in Meloni is not fascism but incompetence.” It is entirely possible that the words many critique in Meloni’s speeches do not come from a place of “fascist based hatred,” but instead, from Meloni’s political inexperience. Many wonder, just as D’Alimonte, if Meloni is even capable of responsibly holding the position as Prime Minister.
Obviously, Meloni strongly believes in her ability to successfully govern Italy, stating that her mission for Italy is to give freedom to all. At a recent rally in L’Aquila, she even explained passionately that, “On Sept. 25, it will be you who decides if this country is ready to be free.” The “all” and “you” to which she refers to, is more symbolic than reality, based on her policies. Many Italian citizens fully support Meloni and her party, claiming her party’s competence in responding to the Coronavirus pandemic, reconstruction needs after the earthquake in 2009, and facilitating a visit from the Pope. One of Meloni’s loyal followers, policeman Antoni Pace, claimed that “If the right hadn’t got in, we would still be living in containers,” which is a perspective many citizens share.
It is more than likely that Meloni will take control of the Italian government on Sept. 25. While this might provide hope for fellow female politicians who have spent far too many years pushed out of the political sphere, Meloni’s politics and what her party stands for should incite fear from the general public