General election in Italy: what is at stake?

FBPE Global

General election in a foreign country is a type of news only a few pays attention. But it shouldn’t be so, especially when Europe is frailer than ever – weakened by the pandemic, wounded by the war in Ukraine, confused in the middle of an energy crisis – and a drastic shift in the policy of any member State can affect the balance of the entire continent.

After the collapse of the Draghi government, on September 25th Italy is going to vote with a bad electoral law, which combines the majority and the proportional representation and forces parties to form unsubstantial coalitions. Furthermore, a recent reform has significantly reduced the seats in Parliament, handing the winners greater power and the ability to revise the Constitution without a referendum. But what forces are involved? What are the political themes? As I wrote in detail in my previous article The Italian politics guide, our spectrum is roughly divided into a left-wing, a right-wing and a miscellaneous of parties in between.

The left-wing coalition

The driving force is the Partito Democratico (PD) and its leader Enrico Letta, ex-Prime Minster and former lecturer at the Paris Institute of Political Studies. Alongside the PD there are: +Europa (a pro-Europe party, ça va sans dire); Sinistra Italiana, one of the many heirs of the Italian Communist Party; Verdi, which is also a member of the European Greens; and Impegno Civico, a centrist force which saw the light right after the downfall of the Draghi government, when some members of the Movimento 5 Stelle left the party due to its decision not to vote confidence. The leader of Impegno Civico, Luigi Di Maio, is the outgoing Minister of Foreign Affairs.

  • Election platform: we can basically say it embodies the EU values. Great importance is given to civil and human rights, such as gender equity, a hate crime law in defence of the LGBTQ+ community, an end-of-life law. The proposed reform called Ius Scholae has caused a particular stir within the right-wing because it would allow immigrants’ children, who were born or grow up in Italy, to become Italian citizens in less time, cutting red tape. Other topics are: a minimum wage law, the increase of renewable energy sources, the support for Ukraine and the pro-NATO policy.

The right-wing coalition

According to polls, Giorgia Meloni and Fratelli d’Italia Party (FdI) seems to be unstoppable, in spite of Meloni’s ambiguous signals. On one hand, she assured the international press that «The Italian right has ended fascism over history for decades now». On the other, FdI rhetoric and symbolism seem to recall the past, especially the neo-fascist party MSI, from which it inherited the flame in the logo, a reference to Mussolini’s grave. Some intellectuals asked for it to be removed, but Meloni replied: «It’s a symbol we are proud of». Moreover, her inspiring figure is Giorgio Almirante, leader of the MSI, fascist and editorial secretary of an antisemitic magazine. Lastly, her relationship with the neo-Francoist Vox Party is stronger than ever. There are two other parties in this coalition: Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, and Matteo Salvini’s Lega. Salvini, ex-star of the right-wing, has viewed his career damaged by some investigations about his relationship with Putin’s Russia. The most recent scandal is about his plan to secretly travel to Russia, a travel allegedly paid by the Russian embassy.

  • Election platform: God, homeland, family, as some would say a century ago. Specifically, a conservative approach to civil rights, against what they call the LGBT lobby and the gender ideology. They advocate the defence of the borders from immigrants, the (ultra) Catholic identity, the nuclear energy, the abolition of the anti-torture lawIt prevents policemen from doing their job» Meloni said). Plus, the euro-scepticism and Trumpism. Salvini’s workhorse is the flat tax, a system that applies the same tax rate to all taxpayers, regardless their income bracket, already adopted in Russia and in some ex-USSR countries.

The centrist coalition

This consists of two parties: Carlo Calenda’s Azione and Matteo Renzi’s Italia Viva. At the beginning of the election campaign, Calenda included in his party some politicians who left Berlusconi after his decision not to vote confidence in the government, causing its downfall. Calenda has thus made a deal with the PD to create a grand coalition against the far-right. But it last 5 days, as he considered unacceptable the alliance with some leftist parties. Then, he teamed up with his long-time enemy Renzi, who is famous for his “knight’s moves”, a series of political agreements which resulted, among others, in the advent of the Draghi government. Together, they formed the group Italia Sul Serio, or as we all call it, the Third Pole.

  • Election platform: pursuing the Draghi agenda, a pro-Europe and pro-NATO policy, a progressive position on civil rights, a green transition that includes both renewable and nuclear energy sources.

A Fourth and Fifth Pole?

Here we find all those parties who did not make any alliance.

The Movimento 5 Stelle, after its pro-Europe and pro-Draghi members left it, runs on its own. Its election platform is a mix of the leftist and centrist themes – civil rights, green policy, minimum wage law, welfare state – but the most controversial theme is the request to stop sending weapons to Ukraine. Besides, the party has been repeatedly accused to be pro-Putin, just like the right-wing.

Other forces in this area are quite extremist, they promote issues such as nationalism, no-vax policy, Italian exit from the EU and the NATO, the stop to the military aid to Ukraine. Luckily, they have little consensus, but the Italexit Party is getting famous and its leader Gianluigi Paragone “warned” that there could be a kind of popular uprising if his party will not make it to the Parliament.

But what is at stake?

Is there a real risk of fascism in Italy? Of course not, at least not in the way it was in the past, although the electoral law combined with the presidentialism – a proposed Constitutional reform to change the President’s competence boundaries – could bring to an excess of power on only one political wing. The current president Sergio Mattarella would be forced to resign, and the one who could take over is Silvio Berlusconi. This position as a power-boosted president would be to him the fulfilment of a lifetime dream but also a sort of a plenary indulgence that would delete decades of scandals and legal vicissitudes.

As Europeans, the risk is a radical change in the Italian policy that could have an impact on the Union. From the handling of the Covid pandemic – far-right parties often endorse conspiracy theories – to a creation of a retrograde barrier in front of civil rights issues. Meloni is a good friend of Viktor Orbán and applauds his policy: «Poland and Hungary» – she stated some time ago – «defend the classical and Christian roots of Europe». In addition, Italy would get closer to Russia’s supporter forces in the EU. A few days ago, the former president Medvedev asked European citizens to «vote for punishing stupid government which opposed Moscow», implying a mutual sympathy between Putin’s regime and some political parties. Or, as Letta said: «Russia put his ballot in the box». This would make it impossible to take EU-compatible decisions on gas supplies and aid to Ukraine.

Article written by Valeria (@Aira on Twitter).

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