Europe holds its breath as Italy expected to vote for far-right leader | Giorgia Melon

Italians are voting in an election that is expected to yield the country’s most radical right-wing government since the end of World War II and a prime minister poised to become a role model for nationalist parties across Europe.

A coalition led by the Brothers of Italy of Giorgia Meloni, a party of neo-fascist origin, should according to the polls before the vote ensure a comfortable victory in both houses of parliament while collecting between 44 and 47% of the vote.

Meloni’s party is also expected to win the largest share of votes in the coalition, which includes the far-right League, led by Matteo Salvini, and Forza Italia, led by Silvio Berlusconi, meaning it could become Italy’s first female Prime Minister.

The coalition’s expected victory, however, raises questions about the country’s alliances in Europe as the continent enters a winter likely dominated by high energy prices and its response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. Meloni has sought to send reassuring messages, but the prospect of his appointment as prime minister is unlikely to go down well in Paris or Berlin.

Germany’s ruling Social Democratic Party warned last week that its victory would be bad for European cooperation. Lars Klingbeil, chairman of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s SPD, said Meloni aligned herself with “anti-democratic” figures such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Earlier this month, MEPs in Meloni voted against a resolution condemning Hungary as “a hybrid regime of electoral autocracy”. Meloni is also allied with Poland’s ruling nationalist Law and Justice party, Sweden’s anti-immigrant Democrats and Spain’s far-right Vox party.

The 45-year-old Roman politician received an endorsement from Vox towards the end of her campaign and, in response, said the two parties were bound by “mutual respect, friendship and loyalty” while hoping the Brethren’s victory in Italy would give Vox a push into Spain.

“Meloni has the ambition to represent a role model not only for Italy, but for Europe – this is something new [for the right in Italy] compared to the past,” said Nadia Urbinati, a political theorist at Columbia University in New York and the University of Bologna. “She has contacts with other conservative parties, who want a Europe with less civil rights…the model is there and the project too.”

Mattia Diletti, a politics professor at La Sapienza University in Rome, said Meloni would win thanks to her ability to be ideological yet pragmatic, which allowed her to propel France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen to the position to become Western Europe. model of nationalism.

However, it is unlikely to rock the boat, at least initially, as it wants to secure continued cash flow under Italy’s €191.5bn (£166bn) Covid stimulus package. sterling), the largest in the EU. The coalition said it was not looking to renegotiate the plan, but wanted to make changes.

Matteo Salvini, Silvio Berlusconi, Giorgia Meloni and Maurizio Lupi attend a political meeting organized by the right-wing political alliance in Rome on Thursday. Photography: Riccardo Fabi/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

“Ambiguity is the key to understanding Meloni,” Diletti said. “She is really interested in a compromise with the EU on economic policy. But if the EU pushes her too hard on the Italian government, she can always step back into her safe zone as a right-wing populist leader. She will do what she has to do to stay in power.

Salvini’s potential return to the Home Office will also dampen hopes of a breakthrough in the EU’s long-running bid to reform its migration system by sharing asylum seekers between member states. Salvini, who has close ties to Le Pen, said he was “looking forward” to resuming his policy of blocking migrant rescue ships from entering Italian ports.

On Ukraine, Meloni condemned Russia’s invasion and supported sending arms to the war-torn country, but it remains unclear whether his government will support the EU’s eighth round of sanctions in discussion class in Brussels. Salvini claimed the sanctions brought Italy to its knees, although he never blocked any EU measures against Russia when he was part of Mario Draghi’s coalition government, which collapsed in July.

Voting began at 7 a.m. Sunday morning and voter turnout was around 51.8% by 7 p.m. local time. The share of undecided voters was 25% before voting began, meaning the right-wing alliance could win a smaller majority than pollsters had initially suggested. A left-wing alliance led by the Democratic Party is expected to win 22-27% of the vote.

Several seats in regions of southern Italy, such as Puglia and Calabria, are also potentially in play after a mini-revival of the populist Five Star movement, which has regained support after promising to maintain its flagship policy, the basic income, if the party resumed entering government.

There was a steady stream of voters to a stand in Esquilino, a multicultural neighborhood in Rome, on Sunday morning, but the mood was disheartened.

“You feel like you’re on a rudderless boat,” said Carlo Russo. “We only heard during the election campaign an exchange of insults between the different parties rather than an exchange of ideas. And in times of confusion like this, people vote for whoever seems to be the strongest.

Fausto Maccari, who runs a newsstand, said he would not vote for the right but did not know who he would support. “The choices are poor,” added Maccari, who is in his 60s. “For example, I look at Berlusconi and he reminds me of a comic book character. At his age, he shouldn’t be involved in politics. It would be like me, at my age, trying to be a footballer like Maradona.

Many Italians who support Meloni do so because she has yet to prove herself in government and are drawn to her determination and loyalty to her ideals.

“She comes across as a capable woman, but not arrogant,” Urbinati said. “She gets things done and is dedicated, but without that masculine adrenaline that wants power at all costs.”