Italy is the factory of political innovations. The first was the fragmentation of the party system, which began in Rome when socialist and conservative parties in France, Britain and Spain peacefully took power, and no one heard of Podemos, UKIP or Erik Zemor. Then he invented this thing about the president who wins votes by behaving like a misogynistic, racist and authoritarian maniac, a tactic in which Silvio Berlusconi surpassed Donald Trump. Will Italy also be the first European country to have a right-wing government?
The answer is yes, on two conditions. The first is that the forecasts have come true and that in the elections this Sunday, a coalition government led by the Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) party must give a government to its leader, Giorgia Meloni, as well as to their Forza Italia allies. achieved. (party of Berlusconi) and the League (Matteo Salvini). The second is to disregard Hungary and Poland, two governments that have been playing politics with anti-immigrant rhetoric and disregard for European institutions for years, ignoring their recommendations.
But what does it mean to be far away in Europe today? Party of Meloni in Italy, National Association of Marine Le Pen in France; Geert Wilders Party for Freedom in the Netherlands; in Vox, Spain; Austrian Independence Party; The alternative for Germany or the Swedish Democrats all have something in common: blaming immigration for the ills that afflict their society and accusing a so-called LGBTI lobby of launching a global agenda against the traditional Christian family.
All are not the same
Similarities so far. Extreme authority has been vying for power in Europe for so many years that the time needed for structural differences to develop is over. In France and Italy, the countries at the heart of the European Union where he is closest to governing, Le Pen and Meloni have turned away from the neoliberal ideology that usually accompanies right-wing structures. None of them talk about reducing the size of the state, like Vox, Eric Zemor, the French or Swedish Democrats, who obtained 20.6% of the vote in the last elections on September 11.
Meloni defends the renationalization of the country’s strategic companies. As Mauro Magatti, professor of sociology at the Catholic University of Milan, puts it, he wants “the state to also play an important role in redistribution and production”. “In Italy, the left has played a progressive role in culture, but social and economic opposition has shifted to the right; those who are suffering from the economic situation are now voting for Meloni,” he says.
There is a new extreme right that does not propose to reduce the size of the state
It’s been written before about the ills afflicting Europe’s poor middle class: growing inequality and uncertainty that no mainstream party has been able to solve. In the Italian case, we must add skepticism towards the European Union to resentment against these traditional parties. In the words of Nobel laureate in economics Michael Spence, “because when the euro was introduced, prices rose” and because of the unsupported approach the eurozone took during the crisis. sovereign debt that followed the financial crash of 2008.
Europe’s sentiment could improve, Spence says, if the shift towards a more inclusive strategy adopted by Brussels during the COVID-19 pandemic is confirmed. “The EU has gained credibility by responding to these challenges,” he explains. According to him, in the next challenges due to energy prices, it will also be necessary to federate the response so that this positive trend is affirmed, and not “the problem-solving attitude that you have acquired yourself”.
The question is how to stop the increase in inequality and uncertainty. Something that does not seem to be in the hands even of far-right parties. Because of his proximity to power, the Meloni case is paradigmatic. With the approach of the disbursement of European aid of 200 billion euros, the leader of Fratelli softened the anti-European tone of his debut and even called on his partner Salvini to soften the positions.
As Francesco Saraceno of the School of European Economic Policy at Louis University in Rome puts it, “It is quite paradoxical that the most extreme part of the coalition is currently taking responsibility for its allies and saying ‘don’t you don’t worry, I’m theirs. They will take care of you”. According to him, the objective is to “win the honor of positioning itself as a credible member in the face of other European countries”. 200,000 million euros are at stake in the package pending the payment of European aid. “I don’t believe Meloni is going to do anything strange and even try to appoint a finance minister that Europe considers respectable,” Saraceno said.
“The dimensions must be at European level” in tax matters, he says. “It is not possible to imagine rebuilding the welfare state without increasing income, which is why I think this question of taxation is going to be necessary,” he explains. The fight, he says, is to get a minimum tax on big business so that nations stop competing with lower taxes, a trend that leaves them destitute.
Meloni has kept his anti-European rhetoric in check, but according to Spence, that doesn’t mean he wants the United States to move to Europe. They would never be able to seek the broadest integration that would coordinate these common tax rates. Blaming immigrants and the so-called LGBTI lobby for the diseases that afflict the European middle class can serve to win elections, but not to cure these diseases.
Magatti says: “These difficulties may arise and lead him or someone else to demand a change in the Italian constitution, not because he asked for it, but as an unintended effect of the desperation he generates.” might.” “That’s what scares me the most.”
Giorgia Meloni does not speak these days of the tricolor flame that the Brothers of Italy logo shares with the neo-fascist party of the extinct Italian Social Movement, where she also rebelled during her first years in politics. This is not the only thing that reminds us of the years of fascism in Europe. As well as a rejection of personal freedom and protectionism. Meloni opposes the purchase of Italian companies by foreign capital and defends the need for a larger state to take over national companies such as airports and railways.
It is a conservatism that rejects an idea of immigrants and the family (the traditional Christian one, although it would retain abortion) like the Hungarian Fides party which, like it, defends the enlargement of the state -providence. In this it differs from Forza Italia and the League, which reiterate the neoliberal logic of cutting state and taxes to improve productivity. He stands out from other populists for his support for European sanctions against Vladimir Putin following the invasion of Ukraine.
As Michael Broning of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in New York points out, the rise of Meloni and the rest of far-right populism is also supported by the influx of younger voters. “They have a better future, higher student debt and less chance of developing a career,” he says. Legitimate concerns, according to him, which explain the use of alternatives that risk proving to be less democratic.
“50% of young voters in the UK think a military government can be the solution to climate change and all our problems,” he warned. Their figures in the last Swedish elections confirm this: “among the youngest, support for the Swedish Democrats has risen from 12% to 22%”.
The only definition that everyone accepts is the impossibility of defining the Eurosceptic and protesting 5-Star Movement (M5S). Born in October 2009 from comedian Beppe Grillo as a charismatic figure and data expert GianRoberto Casaleggio as a thoughtful soul, more than ten years after leading its leader Giuseppe Conte as Prime Minister of Italy ( 2018-2021) Took less time Believers in live democracy and refusing to be pigeonholed as left or right, he allied himself with the League Matteo Salvini as well as the Progressive Democratic Party of Enrico Letta.
According to Francesco Saraceno of Louis University in Rome, progressive ideas on environmental and social justice issues coexist in his recent opinions, which are very difficult to reconcile with the “anti-immigrant positions and sentiments” that also characterize him. East. Being part of the establishment and the last turn to the left (although in M5S they would never say it) left him up in the air: Letta blamed him for the collapse of Mario Draghi’s government and refused to sign the right . alliance with them to face the tripartite.
Although he is not expected to have a great electoral result, the August elections gave him a break, especially among young people aged 18 to 24, where he garnered 17% support. Very close to the 19% achieved by the Democratic Party of Letta and the same percentage achieved by the Italian brothers among voters of these ages. According to Mauro Magatti of the Catholic University of Milan, a possible explanation for his electoral reforms in southern Italy could be the fear that many voters will lose the benefits granted under the M5S government. “Something that is a far cry from the early days of the M5S,” he says.