ROME — If the polls are correct, Italians will elect their country’s most right-wing government on Sunday since the end of World War II. This is no small thing in a country that has had 69 governments since 1946.
Giorgia Meloni, leader of Fratelli d’Italia, the party of the Brothers of Italy, is at the head of the coalition which seems likely to obtain the majority of the seats in the Italian parliament.
If her coalition wins, she will also make history by becoming Italy’s first female prime minister.
Meloni, 45, grew up in a working-class district of Rome that is better known for cultivating left-wing activists than producing fiery far-right politicians. His party has roots in the neo-fascist movement that emerged from the ruins of World War II.
The symbols also indicate the party’s connection to this past. The party flag includes a tricolor flame which was a symbol of fascism in the early 20th century. Meloni refused to remove the flame from the party logo.
And many party members have shown an affinity for fascism and past fascist leaders. Just this week party suspended a member stand for parliamentary elections after an Italian newspaper revealed he had published comments supporting Adolf Hitler in the past.
Meloni spent a lot of time and energy trying to convince Italians and Europeans that the party is not fascist. When she’s not on the radio or TV, she’s on the road, create videos she broadcasts live and posts on all her social media platforms.
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Meloni’s Twitter feed is full of dozens of nearly identical scenes. They all show her as she takes the stage in various Italian cities, to adoring cheers from supporters holding flags of the Brothers of Italy.
Meloni’s opposition to immigration energized her and her base
In August, Meloni posted a video on social media saying she would introduce a naval blockade to patrol the Mediterranean, to ban people she called “illegal immigrants” from North Africa.
“What’s important in the campaign is not the politics itself. It’s the message – ‘we’ll stop them at all costs,'” says historian Lorenzo Castellani, a professor at LUISS University in Rome. “She comes forward as a kind of border defender, a very Trumpian approach from that point of view,” Castellani says, referring to former President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric and policy.
Though she expends energy trying to do without the label of fascism, Meloni also serves red meat to party faithful. At a recent event, she was shout about the years of shame many have felt for holding what she often calls “anti-woke” views.
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“I dream of a nation where people who have had to put their heads down for so many years … can now speak their minds and not lose their jobs because of it,” Meloni said. .
A conservative disguised as a moderate?
Some Italians fear that a government led by Meloni will decide to ban abortion, which has been legal in Italy since 1978. Meloni says she won’t.
Meloni has long been a eurosceptic — and has spoken in the past of taking Italy out of the common currency, the euro, and even of leaving the European Union. But she has repeatedly promised that she will work with the EU and can be trusted to manage the 200 billion euros ($194 billion) Italy has received in European recovery funds in the event of pandemic.
That assurance was called into question on Thursday, when European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned that there could be consequences for Italy, the EU’s third-largest economy, if it evolves into a undemocratic leadership after the elections.
Meloni has long insisted that she has no intention of being soft on Russia and has supported Ukraine since war broke out in February. But one of his coalition partners, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, enjoys a long friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and appeared on an Italian talk show on Thursday. saying Putin invaded Ukraine to put “honest people” in power in Kyiv.
It’s unclear whether this could hurt the prospects of Meloni’s coalition at this late hour, but his opponent, former prime minister Enrico Letta, leader of Italy’s center-left Democratic Party, has repeatedly said during the campaign. election: “If the right wins, the first person to be happy will be Vladimir Putin.”
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A wise politician
As Italians grapple with soaring energy costs, inflation and a sluggish economy, Meloni, whose party won just 4% of the vote in the last election, stood positioned as an outsider who will make things happen.
Political writer Federico Fubini, a critic of Meloni, says she was shrewd not to sit in the national unity government that just collapsed. It created a big opening.
“The main reason she’s leading in the polls is because she’s seen as the one who hasn’t been in power for 10 years,” he says.
If Meloni’s coalition wins and she is named prime minister, she will take office almost exactly 100 years after Benito Mussolini came to power in Rome. She insists his ideology is a thing of the past. Many Italians and Europeans hope that she will keep her word.