Italy poised for hard-right leader as country votes in snap election

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the right-wing Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) party holds a giant Italian national flag during a political rally on February 24, 2018 in Milan, Italy.

Emanuele Cremaschi Getty Images

Italians go to the polls on Sunday in a national vote that could return the country’s first female prime minister and the first far-right-led government since the end of World War II.

Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) party was created in 2012, but has its roots in Italy’s 20th-century neo-fascist movement that emerged after the death of fascist leader Benito Mussolini in 1945 .

After winning 4% of the vote in the 2018 election, he has used his position in opposition to springboard into the mainstream. The Brothers of Italy party is expected to get the majority of single-party votes on Sunday. Polls ahead of the September 9 blackout showed it taking almost 25% of the vote, well ahead of its closest right-wing ally, the Lega.

Forming a coalition with the Lega, under Matteo Salvini, Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and a smaller coalition partner, Noi Moderati, the right-wing alliance looks likely to win power in Rome. Italy’s complicated first-round system rewards coalitions and the centre-left Democratic Party has failed to build a large enough alliance despite polling 21% as a single party.

Polls opened at 7:00 a.m. local time and will close at 11:00 p.m. There should be a ballot box as voting closes, but early projections may not arrive until Monday morning. Achieving political consensus and cementing any coalition could take weeks, and a new government may only come to power in October.

Incumbent Mario Draghi, a well-liked technocrat who was forced out by political infighting in July, agreed to stay on as caretaker. Sunday’s snap election comes six months ahead of schedule.

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Brothers of Italy has spoken to sectors of the public concerned about immigration (Italy is the destination of many migrant boats crossing the Mediterranean), the country’s relationship with the EU and the economy.

In terms of politics, the Brothers of Italy have often been described as “neo-fascist” or “post-fascist”, their policies echoing the nationalist, nativist and anti-immigration stance of the fascist era of Italy For his part, however, Meloni claims to have freed the party from fascist elements, saying in the summer that the Italian right “consigned fascism to history decades ago”.

Still, his policies are socially conservative to say the least, with the party opposing gay marriage and promoting traditional “family values,” and Meloni said in 2019 that his mission was to defend ” God, country and family.”

A volunteer prepares pink ballots at a polling station in Rome”

Andreas Solaro | Afp | Getty Images

When it comes to Europe, Fratelli d’Italia has reversed its opposition to the euro, but advocates EU reform to make it less bureaucratic and less influential in domestic politics. On the economic front, he stuck to the centre-right coalition’s position that the next government should cut sales taxes on certain goods to ease the cost-of-living crisis and said Italy should renegotiate its bailout funds. recovery from Covid-19 with the EU.

Fratelli d’Italia has been pro-NATO and pro-Ukraine and supports sanctions against Russia, unlike the Lega, which is ambivalent about such measures. Meloni has been described as something of a political chameleon by some, and analysts have noted changes in her political stance over time.

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