Giorgia Meloni is on course to become Italy’s first female prime minister and lead the country’s most right-wing government since World War Two, a sharp rightwards turn that has been met with a mixture of adulation, anxious trepidation and outright dismay by politicians of various stripes across Europe.
Meloni appears poised to become Italy’s next prime minister after her far-right Brothers of Italy party led a conservative alliance to victory at the polls on Sunday, netting around 44% of the vote.
Her Brothers of Italy are projected to have won 26% of the vote, the most out of any party, with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Matteo Salvini’s League expected to take 8% and 9% of votes, respectively.
Meloni’s win, which has yet to be formally called, heralds the most far-right-led Italian government in decades and was celebrated by members of Europe’s far-right, including Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), Spain’s Vox party and Marine Le Pen, who leads France’s National Rally and was soundly beaten in the country’s last presidential election.
Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki also congratulated Meloni on social media, as did Hungary’s nationalist prime minister Viktor Orbán, who posted a photo of them together, and his long standing political director said the two “share a common vision and approach to Europe’s challenges.”
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, who declined to speak on the election directly, pointedly recalled critical comments about needing to respect European values on human rights that were directed at Hungary and Poland from European Union President Ursula von der Leyen last week.
The likelihood of Italy’s hard turn to the right has alarmed observers in Europe and the wider world. Italy is a founding member of the EU, the bloc’s third-biggest economy and a political heavyweight both within the union and on its own. Some fear it could signal a wider rightwards shift in Europe and the win already follows on the heels of a populist surge that propelled a right-wing bloc to victory in Sweden and months after Le Pen put up a strong fight for the French presidency. Meloni, who has led Brothers of Italy since 2014 and pushed an “Italy and Italians first” agenda, has sought to rehabilitate the party’s image and distance it from its fascist roots. Her rise in popularity, as well as the party’s, has been rapid; Brothers of Italy gained just 4% of the vote at the 2018 general election.
What To Watch For
The outcome marks a noted shift in power within the EU and Meloni’s policies chart more than one collision course with Brussels—the bloc’s headquarters—particularly on migration and the economy. Meloni’s leadership could place Rome more in line with Budapest and Warsaw, which have been at odds with Brussels over fundamental issues of human rights and governance. Borne specifically identified access to abortion as a right the bloc’s leadership is keeping an eye on and should be respected by EU members.
7 Reasons Italy’s Likely Hard-Right Government Has Observers Worried (Forbes)