Italy gets rightist set-up, far-right leader - GulfToday

Italy gets rightist set-up, far-right leader

Giorgia Meloni

Giorgia Meloni

Italy’s far-right Brothers of Italy got 26 per cent of the vote even as its two coalition partners, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia got 8 % and former interior minister’s League of Mateo Salvini 9%, which makes the rightist coalition the largest party, as Sunday election results were declared on Monday. On the other side, the outgoing government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s coalition, Democratic Party won 26 % and Five-Star Italy, which had 30 % in the last election, got 15% of the vote this time.

It will take time before 45-year-old Giorgia Miloni, leader of Brothers of Italy, who hails from a low-income working-class background in Rome, will become the first woman prime minister of Catholic Italy. She entered politics as a 15-year-old in 1992 when she joined the post-World War Two neo-fascist Italian Social Movement, which was formed immediately after the war with remnants of Mussolini’s fascist supporters. When criticized for her fascist links, Meloni issued a multi-language video message during the campaign in which she said, “The Italian Right has handed over fascism to history for decades now, unambiguously condemning the suppression of democracy and the ignominious anti-Jewish laws.”

While far-right parties in Spain, France, Poland, Sweden hailed her victory – Meloni is the vice-chair of far-right parties in the European Parliament, the European Conservative and Reformist group, which includes her party, Brothers of Italy, Poland’s Law and Justice Party, Spain’s Vox and Sweden’s Democrats – the liberals and socialists in Europe are worried. Vice President of European Parliament and members of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats, Katharina Barley, said, “Her electoral lip service to Europe cannot hide the fact that she represents a danger to constructive coexistence in Europe.” On the other hand, Santiago Abascal, leader of Spain’s far-right Vox, said of the victory of Meloni, that she “has shown the way for a proud and free Europe of sovereign nations that can cooperate on behalf of everybody’s security and prosperity.”

Meloni in her own victory statement said, “If we are called to govern this nation, we will do it for everyone, we will do it for all Italians and we will do it with the aim of uniting the people (of this country). Italy chose us. We will not betray (the country) as never have.” This is a clear right-wing leader’s assertion of a narrowly defined nationalism of Italy, of all Italians. And it is this overemphasis on nationalist interests that worries the European Union leaders who are struggling to keep national rivalries on a leash because rivalries would only lead to conflict and not to cooperation.

Meloni is however a strong supporter of Nato and she vigorously opposes the Russian war in Ukraine, which was also the position of her predecessor, Mario Draghi, but she is not well disposed towards the European Union. But observers feel that she would not do anything to rock the EU boat because Italy is benefiting from the connection. It has received 191.5 billion euros as part of corona virus recovery fund from the EU. Italy’s economy is in trouble, and Meloni may not have satisfactory solution to the challenge. Her position on immigration is very clear and it is very anti-immigrant. She wants to impose a naval blockade to stop any migrant from North Africa reaching the shores of Italy. And she has criticized EU’s decision to suspend funds for Hungary for failing to respect democratic rights under Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Meloni’s argument: He is a democratically elected leader of Hungary and EU must respect the verdict. Both Europe and Italy under Meloni will have to tread carefully in maintaining working relations because Italy needs EU and EU needs Italy.

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