By Alyx Johnstone (She/Her)
Just over a month ago, Italy elected its first right wing party since 1945. Giorgia Meloni became the country’s first female prime minister leading the party, Brothers of Italy, which many deem neo-fascist. This newly elected government marks the country’s 70th government since just World War 2. But how has Italy got here?
The Strathclyde Telegraph met with Dr Fabrizo De Francesco, political policy expert and Dr Sebastian Dellepiane Avellaneda, political economist to discuss what this means for the country and more importantly what it says about the political sphere in wider Europe with the rise of right wing parties spreading across the continent.
“Meloni is sharp and it is clear that there is a sharpness in her political approach. Her personal narrative is playing up to the electorate by saying she is ‘one of us’. says Dr Avellaneda. He talks about how during the run up to the election Meloni played on being the new face of Italian politics and on making promises that had not yet been delivered from the previous governments.
“She presented herself as the idea of the new solution, the new saviour and though she has been in the system for a while, this is what she appealed to a lot of voters”
Meloni, the forty-five year old Prime Minister was born in Rome and has been in politics for the majority of her career, starting out in the Chamber of Deputies back in 2006. Since 2014, she has been the leader of the Brothers of Italy party, a party that was formed after breaking away from ‘The People of Freedom’ party back in 2012 after there were claims it became too centrist for some of its right wing members.
Meloni herself has some controversial ties. At age 19 she was a member of National Alliance, where she was quoted saying “Mussolini was a good politician, in that everything he did, he did for Italy.”
Since then she has tried to distance herself from this but not everyone is convinced. However, it is clear that her previous sentiments about Italy’s previous facsist dictator, notably known for being close friends with Hitler, has not made her entirely disliked by the electorate.
Dr Avellaneda believes that Meloni’s success comes down to her playing it safe with some of her political choices saying:
“Right now she is playing it really safe with foreign policy choices.”
However, despite playing it safe, it is clear that Meloni and the party are fiercely right wing with views that oppose gay rights, immigration and abortion.
Just last month on the 31st of October, there was a facist march in Predappio, the hometown and place of death of facist dictator Bennito Mussolini to mark the 100th year since his march on Rome, a key event that started Italy’s facist era. Mussolin’s supporters marched the streets doing a right arm signal, akin to those of the Nazi party. Many of Meloni’s critics have slammed her for not speaking out quickly enough about this protest, blaming her party for this new wave of fascism that is spreading across Italy. Meloni tried to distance herself from the march last week saying:
“I have never felt sympathy or closeness to undemocratic regimes, fascism included, as I have always considered the racial laws of 1938 the lowest point in Italian history, a shame that will mark our people forever,”
But what do Dr Francesco and Allevaneda think about what these events say about the country?
“There is a lot of the noise in the media that is coming from the people on the far right, an example being like you mentioned those people who were marching to celebrate Musolini. But only three years ago this (Brothers of Italy) was a party of 4% but now it is getting 26% of the vote and Meloni is even higher now in the polls. She knows that not all her voters will be as hard on the right as say those who were marching last week so she is being fluid. She is representing those who voted for the party who are associated with the old guard with a very problematic past but she is now also representing Italians who voted her in to see if the change in government can help sort out some of the country’s problems.”
To finish of our conversation around Meloni and the right wing policies of her government, they touch on the representation that Italian politics is getting right now from the international media:
“The international media are quick to call this new government far right (and of course it is a right wing party with right wing policies) but then in many dimensions, what is the UK government? Not least when you look at immigration with things like the Rwanda Scheme or the supreme court in the US with abortion.”
Rishi Sunak’s new government in the UK looks to be more right wing than what the country has seen in recent times, with the prime minister looking to do things such as remove trans rights from the Equality Act and crack down even further on immigration. Across the pond in America there is no forgetting the historical reversal of Roe V Wade in many states across the country, leaving many women without the choice when it comes to abortion even going as far as criminalising those who seek them out in states where it is being made illegal.
Whilst it is clear Italy is headed in a potentially frightening direction, those quick to condemn Italian politics should also be looking at other countries across both Europe and the wider world as it is clear that far right politics are spreading to a lot more countries than many may realise.