By Jake Johnson
Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the fascist Brothers of Italy party, is set to become the country’s prime minister after her far-right coalition emerged victorious in Sunday’s snap election, defeating a fragmented center-left and setting the stage for a viciously xenophobic and anti-democratic Italian government.
The alliance of Meloni’s party, Matteo Salvini’s The League, and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia won roughly 43% of the vote in early tallies, with Brothers of Italy winning around 25% in the low-turnout contest. Results counted thus far indicate that the right-wing coalition failed to garner enough support to amend Italy’s constitution.
Italy’s centrist Democratic Party is poised to lead the opposition.
“This is a sad day for the country,” Debora Serracchiani, a Democratic Party leader, said of Meloni’s win.
Meloni has rejected the fascist label, but her party has its roots in the neofascist movement that emerged following the death of dictator Benito Mussolini. Meloni was a youth member of the Italian Social Movement, which was created by former members of Mussolini’s National Fascist Party.
Brothers of Italy’s fascist heritage can be seen on its flag, which features a tricolor flame that served as the Italian Social Movement’s symbol.
Last month, in an address aimed at distancing herself from her past involvement with fascist organizations, Meloni said that she has in recent years “had the honor of leading the European Conservative Party,” which “shares values and experiences with the British Tories, the U.S. Republicans, and the Israeli Likud.”
Ruth Ben-Ghiat, professor of history and Italian studies at New York University, wrote for The Atlantic last week that “Meloni’s enemies list is familiar: ‘LGBT lobbies’ that are out to harm women and the family by destroying ‘gender identity’; George Soros, an ‘international speculator,’ she has said, who finances global ‘mass immigration’ that threatens a Great Replacement of white, native-born Italians.”
“Meloni seems unlikely to tone down her extremism or change her alignment with illiberal parties in Europe, such as Hungary’s Fidesz,” Ben-Ghiat argued. “After all, pursuing hard-line anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ policies in the name of defending white Christian civilization has worked well for them. Like [Hungary’s authoritarian leader Viktor] Orbán, Meloni has made common cause with U.S. Republicans, attending the Conservative Political Action Conference and the National Prayer Breakfast.”
Italy has seen 11 governments in 20 years, and Sunday’s snap contest came after unelected Prime Minister Mario Draghi, a former central banker, announced his resignation in July following the collapse of his unity government amid a worsening cost-of-living crisis.
“For too many years, Italy has been stuck in a cycle: a merry-go-round in which power is passed up between failed career politicians, unelected technocrats, and opportunistic populists,” said DiEM25, a pan-European progressive movement co-founded by former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis. “One of these populists—an openly fascist one—is now set to become the country’s new leader.”
“To break with this cycle, Italians must now repeat what their ancestors once did: defeat fascism,” the group added. “But not for the return of the politics-as-usual that brought the fascists to power in the first place.”
Varoufakis argued Monday that the far-right’s surge to power in Italy represents another “colossal failure” by the European establishment and its disastrous economic policies that have worsened inequality for the benefit of elites.
“Yesterday’s Italian elections signal the absorption by the European and NATO establishment of Italian neo-fascism,” said Varoufakis. “The specter of fascism may once again be hovering over Europe. But, as in Greece, it is now fully integrated—and continues its misanthropic work—within the oligarchic European establishment.”
Jake Johnson writes for Common Dreams