Italy's new leader is being sworn in today (October 22) as an outcome of its national elections of late September.
Concern is growing that with this new leadership, far right nationalism (in the opinion of some, fascism) is now again a firm political force in Europe.
Though the European right wing political movement had mixed results in French national elections this year, the National Rally party did succeed in making significant gains in the French Parliament to the extent that President Emmanuel Macron lost his governing majority coalition. In Hungary, a rightist leader in Viktor Orban won his fourth term in April 2022 as Prime Minister. And, the European Parliament's European Conservatives and Reformist group, or ECR Group, a self-proclaimed center-right political group claims to have 62 participating members covering 19 parties from 15 countries.
Italy's newly-elected leadership, in a solidly western nation connected historically to the European Union (EU), could potentially put the rightist movement across Europe–what it stands for and where its heading–into a much more clear focus than in France and Hungary.
Italy's September Election Results
Italy held its "snap election" on September 25. The party winning the majority votes–the Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’italia, or Fdl)–won with about a 26% share. While this vote share is seemingly low, the total rises to more than 44% with its announced alliance with two other rightist political parties–League and Forza Italia. Italy traditionally operates with coalitions of parties under its parliamentary system. The last ruling party coalition fell apart earlier this year, which led to this snap election.
Reuters published (October 21) a good summary of the new Italian cabinet minsters for key positions. The entire leadership should be fully in place within days.
Giorgia Meloni & Her Party's Policy Positions
Making definitive conclusions about where Italy is heading with respect to actual governing policy of the country's new leadership, versus campaign platforms, is challenging. Ms. Meloni's campaign statements can be viewed as suggestive but ambiguous on some matters, clear on others, and some positions are inconsistent to an extent with current/past positions.
The strongest critics of Ms. Meloni will likely argue that Ms. Meloni succeeded in part by presenting herself via her party as a moderating force that, ultimately, is clearly connected the fascist Italian Social Movement views of Benito Mussolini. They would argue that the mainstreaming and elevating of the radical right through this new Italian party alliance is bad not only for Italy and Europe, but could be feeding into a new era of nationalistic fervor that could undermine human rights, democracy, and unified efforts to address the world's challenges.
Ms. Meloni's overarching campaign motto was "god, family, and country," though sometimes "family" and "country" or "fatherland" exchange places in statements. She would often refer to herself as "mother, Italian, Christian." She rejects talk that she or her party is fascist; that her party "handed fascism over to history for decades now” and “unambiguously condemns the suppression of democracy and the ignominious anti-Jewish laws."
A survey of available policy information offers the following key points on Ms. Meloni and her current party/party alliance viewpoints:
Illegal Immigration. Ms. Meloni supports a naval blockade of immigrant boats, as well as humanitarian rescue vessels from docking at Italian ports, which could have implications for crossings to other Mediterranean countries, such as Spain. The party also advocates creating immigrant processing locations outside of the EU.
Italian Birth Rate. Ms. Meloni's party advocates boosting the Italian birth rate to ease the need for migrant labor. Though lacking in specifics, the party advocates for reduced taxes on diapers, formula, providing free childcare, and incentivizing employers to hire new mothers.
Abortion. Ms. Meloni says she would respect Italy’s current abortion law, but also says she wants to emphasize elements of the law that focus on “prevention.” Abortion is currently legal only up to 12 weeks of pregnancy in most cases, and doctors can opt-out of abortion services as “conscientious objectors." Most Italian doctors, especially in rural areas, currently refuse to provide abortion services.
LGBTIQ+. Ms. Meloni opposes same-sex marriage as a "huge expense for the state" and an "unacceptable opening to gay adoptions." She says that her priorities are to "support the traditional family and birth" and the "sacred right" for a child to have both a mother and a father. In addition, the alliance parties recently were successful in blocking action in parliament on legislation making violence against LGBTQ+ persons/groups a hate crime in Italy. Alliance parties claim the legislation promoted "gender ideology," a term used to suggest that the LGBTIQ+ movement wants to erase gender differences.
Workplace Equity. Ms. Meloni says she opposes quotas on the participation of women in government and on private-sector positions of power.
NATO & Ukraine. Ms. Meloni claims to strongly support NATO, condemns Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and supports sending arms to Ukraine.
European Union. Ms. Meloni's party claims that it wants to “re-discuss” European treaties, including the preeminence of Italian laws over EU laws, and potentially Italy's EU membership.
Economy. The new governing party alliance is promising to cut taxes, welfare, and revise the terms of Italy’s recovery fund agreement with Brussels.
In addition to these viewpoints, the new governing party alliance is aligned with the EU ECR Group, which publishes its policy views. Key policy views include:
Supporting the opening of EU markets to non-EU products in a “limited and controlled way.”
Increasing protection of the EU’s external border and strengthen the EU’s border organization.
Increasing rates of return of failed asylum seekers, and combating asylum abuse.
Seeking a new EU "institutional settlement” which recognizes that the EU’s legitimacy derives principally from member states alone and that “subsidiarity, proportionality and conferral must be fully respected.”
Ensuring that non-EU countries fulfill international obligations on human rights, in particular religious violence against christians around the world.