What Does Italy’s Election of a New Prime Minister Mean for the Country?
French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. (Wikimedia Commons)
Italians took to the polls in their recent election to vote for a new prime minister and seats in parliament on September 25, 2022. The leader of the Brothers of Italy party, Giorgia Meloni, won the election, becoming not only the first woman to be prime minister of Italy, but the most far-right leader to hold the office since World War II. Meloni’s party took the majority of the seats in parliament with 26 percent of the vote.
With the country’s most right wing government since 1945 on track to lead Italy through a changing Europe, the tides have turned, as the country continues to move towards policies leaning toward the right. While Meloni’s supporters praise her commitment to putting “traditional Italians and their values first,” her opposition claims she will lead the country to a non-liberal democracy. Meloni was appointed prime minister on October 22, ushering in a new phase in Italian politics and reflecting on the shifting geopolitics of other countries in the European Union.
Who is Giorgia Meloni?
At forty-five years of age and with extensive political experience, Prime Minister Meloni is no newcomer to Italian politics. She’s the co-founder of Brothers of Italy, (Fratelli d’Italia) a right wing and nationalist political party. Meloni was fifteen years old when she joined the Italian Social Movement, (Movimento Sociale Italiano), a party that consisted of supporters of Mussolini, the former fascist dictator that held power in Italy during World War II, and served as president of the rebranded party’s student wing. Meloni was elected to the Italian parliament, and rose quickly through the ranks as a prominent Italian conservative.
She unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Rome, but later went viral for a video of her address in Rome regarding traditionalist values. Meloni and the Brothers of Italys’ positions were bolstered in the right wing of Italy after refusing to join the governing coalition following the 2018 elections despite other right-leaning parties doing so. With the collapse of former Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s coalition, Meloni and the Brothers of Italy emerged as a major figure of opposition and a new front of right wing dominance. Meloni won the election as many other right wing parties unified around her party after Draghi’s collapse.
Many see the policies of Prime Minister Meloni and her party as traditionalist and conservative. Conservative American politicians were elated by her victory, hoping it mirrored possible successes for their midterms. Although videos of her praising Mussolini when she was younger have gone viral, she denies her party is linked to fascism. Meloni condemned laws targeting Jewish people and other minorities in old fascist regimes, and distanced herself and her party from fascism during an address to parliament on October 25.
She said, "I have never felt any sympathy or closeness to anti-democratic regimes, fascism included." But concerns over other policies regarding the preservation of what she believes to be Italian traditional values still loom. Meloni has stated that reducing immigration to Italy is a priority, along with making it difficult for migrants to start businesses, targeting charity ships that rescued migrants, and making it difficult for migrants to officialize their status. Meloni has also called for a naval blockade off the coast of North Africa to restrict immigration by sea to Italy amid racist attacks on people of color in Italy.
On the subject of reproductive rights, Prime Minister Meloni and her party take a hardline stance against abortion. Although Meloni said she doesn’t wish to repeal the laws permitting them, abortions are described as “practically impossible” to have in Le Marche, a region that the Brothers of Italy have influence in. Some fear less women will have access to abortion under Meloni’s authority.
Meloni and her party take a controversial stance in terms of the LGBTQ community. In a speech for one of Spain’s national conservative political parties, Meloni said, “Yes to the natural family, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology.” Her victory in the election brings fears to the LGBTQ community in Italy for the uncertain future and reversal of gender recognition milestones. Meloni has also characterized Islam as a dangerous and violent religion and received criticism for condemning the religion in various speeches.
Meloni’s policies regarding the war in Ukraine are similar to other countries in the European Union, and she has expressed support for sending weapons to Ukraine and backing NATO sanctions on Russia. However, she was in support of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Now as Prime Minister, Meloni has more ability to put some of her beliefs into implementation, backed by a powerful right wing parliament.
What comes next?
For many Italians, Meloni’s election means a drastic change from the Draghi government’s leadership. Some members of the LGBTQ community and the immigrant community of Italy fear having Meloni as prime minister will incite further hate against their communities. With former prime minister Draghi gone and a rise in right wing politicians seen in the recent French elections, the European Union can see a permutation in geopolitics. Meloni’s victory can be a signal of change - not just for Italy, but the European Union and continent.
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