Meloni´s Blazing Electoral Win in Italy

  • Meloni’s party Brothers of Italy and the center-right coalition won national elections 
  • Meloni is likely going to become the first female prime minister of Italy
  • The win represents a significant change in leadership dynamics

Why is Meloni´s heat level Blazing?

Answer: Because the right wing coalition won a comfortable majority of seats in Parliament, and, since Brothers of Italy was the party that received the most votes, she will likely be selected as prime minister. 

As a result of national elections in Italy on Sunday the 25th of September, the center-right coalition won in a landslide victory, capturing around 44% of votes. This election brings a significant change in leadership dynamics in the country, with the newly elected government as the most right-wing government Italy has had since World War II. The coalition will have 237 out of 400 seats in Italy’s lower house of legislature, the Chamber of Deputies, and 112 out of 200 seats in the Senate. While this is a comfortable majority, it is not the two-thirds supermajority that they had hoped for, which would have allowed the government to change the constitution and political system without consulting citizens via a referendum.  

Giorgia Meloni’s far-right party Brothers of Italy led the coalition to the win, as they earned around 26% of votes alone. For this reason, Meloni is very likely going to become the first female prime minister Italy has ever had. While the electoral result did not come as a surprise since polls had been predicting her win for months, Meloni is nonetheless blazing due to her rise in popularity as a figure on the Italian political stage. This result contradicts her performance in previous elections, held in 2018, where Meloni had only earned 4% of votes. 

Although Meloni is blazing as a result of the latest elections, the government still needs to be formed, meaning that her challenge is to negotiate a governing leadership that can last. Moreover, Meloni will have to earn the support of the people who did not vote for her, as well as from international leaders that are, as we will see, skeptical of her ideology. Therefore she will have to be careful with her next moves.

Who is changing Meloni’s temperature?

Answer: Failures on the part of previous governments to unite and govern steadily led to popular dissatisfaction with Italian politics, and opened up a path for Meloni and Brothers of Italy to bring a change in leadership. 

Being on the opposition benches of the past government, Meloni and the Brothers of Italy were able to reap the benefits of the divisions within former prime minister Draghi’s coalition government, which led Draghi to resign and President Mattarella to call for early elections. Since the left-wing populist Five Star Movement and the center-left Democratic Party were divided over their support, or lack thereof, of Draghi’s government, they decided to not unite for the elections. The Five Star movement participated alone, while the Democratic Party formed a center-left coalition with smaller left wing parties, and the centrist Terzo Polo also decided to go in alone.

This disunity weakened the center and left as a whole, because of a new electoral law that favors broad coalitions, as it awards a third of seats through a majoritarian first-past-the-post system. Therefore, while center and left parties could have collectively won more votes than the right, if they formed strategic coalitions, by participating separately they lost the upper hand. The disunity of the center and left also led them to generally fail to offer a persuasive alternative for leadership, and thus, to lose even more voters, who turned to the right instead. 

But it does not end here. On the right of the spectrum, the League and Forza Italia also performed worse than in previous elections in 2018, where they won 17 and 14 percent of the vote respectively. In the latest elections, their support dropped to 8.9 and 8.3 percent respectively. Matteo Salvini, previously the main figure of the right in Italy, and leader of the right-wing League, lost supporters to Meloni’s party, due to their similar ideology but his reputation being stained by several moves while in government.

Therefore, Meloni’s success is attributed partly to not having been associated with any previous government. Being in the opposition, Brothers of Italy was able to collect the benefits of the anger and popular dissatisfaction that had been developing with previous governments. 

It is important to note, however, that while many voters turned their support to her, many decided to abstain. The voter turnout was the lowest ever, with only 64% of the population going to vote. Therefore the win does not represent a result of widespread popularity, and Meloni still needs to earn the support of a large section of the population that either did not vote for her, or did not vote at all. 

What is driving Giorgia Meloni?

Answer: Giorgia Meloni aims to make Italians proud to be Italian again; this entails to overcome the alleged dominance of public discourse and government by the left, both at the national and at the EU level, and, instead, bring back more nationalistic and traditional ways of doing politics.

Giorgia Meloni’s win marks a shift from the progressive left wing, and shows the solidification of populist sentiments. Meloni aims to fight the left’s elitist dominance of public discourse and in the Italian political establishment; she rejects progressive values, and instead embraces nationalism, religion and tradition. 

Her likely term as prime minister worries many people in the national and international public due to her ideology and agenda. Some of the critique against her is due to her open disagreement with the normalization and integration of LGBTQ and migrant communities, her statement about setting up a naval blockade against migrants, her overall anti immigrant sentiments and discussion of womens rights such as abortion, stating that she will “give an alternative” to women wanting an abortion, although she insists she wouldn’t ban abortion.

Observers are also worried due to the many associations between the Brothers of Italy and fascism. While she counteracts these accusations by stating that fascism belongs in history, her party descends from the Social Movement founded by ex-members of the fascist regime, and she has refused to remove the fascist references from the party’s logo and slogan.

Most notably, the Brothers of Italy have talked about plans to change the government system, traditionally parliamentarian, to a presidential system, with the direct election of the President (currently elected indirectly by the parliament). This is a constitutional change that would concentrate power in their hands. However, changing the constitution would require a supermajority, which the right-wing coalition failed to achieve in this election. In any case, Meloni needs to be careful not to go too far, at least until she has a more solid base of support.

What does this mean for you?

Answer: The EU worries about one more member state being ruled by a right-wing populist leader, which could put additional strain on an already insecure European unity. 

The electoral result contributed to the fear of a resurgence of far-right ideology and populism across Europe. Italy would be the latest addition to the club of European countries governed by far-right populists after Poland, Hungary, and, since recently, Sweden. In France and Spain, populist movements are also surging and came close to winning. Furthermore, it seems like these far-right leaders are banding together. Right after the elections, Hungary’s national-conservative Prime Minister Orban publicly congratulated Meloni, while French far-right leader Le Pen also talked about a “time when the whole of Europe is waking up”, and Vox party leader Santiago Abascal said “Meloni shows the way to a free Europe”. 

This creates a concern for leaders of the EU because as far-right populist movements are gaining influence and promoting nationalist sentiments they are pushing for greater freedom of sovereign states to decide for themselves which comes during a time where European crises are creating distrust in the European project. Another win on the part of right populist movements thus creates further instability in the EU, especially at a critical time where the war in Ukraine and the economic crisis are already testing the limits of EU unanimity. The election of Giorgia Meloni implies a significant shift in direction after a period of “European-centric stability” under former Prime Minister Draghi, notably also ex-leader of the ECB.