The Progressive Post

Italy after the election: please, do not underestimate the danger

30/09/2022

Last Sunday’s election in Italy gave rise to the most right-wing majority in recent Italian history. The strongest party in the right-wing coalition, Brothers of Italy, has a clear post-fascist identity. The resulting government will represent a serious threat both for Italy and Europe. The temptation to normalise relations by the economic, institutional, and political establishment is already visible. For Progressives, this would be a fatal mistake.

The outcome of the Italian elections is known by now: the right-wing coalition, who perfectly understood the mechanism underpinning the new surreal electoral law won big, with 43 per cent of the votes in total, and will dispose of a comfortable majority in both chambers of parliament. Very low participation, which adds to the worries for democracy, saw only 63 per cent participation, the lowest turnout since 1948.

All in all, the score of the right-wing parties did not improve significantly. But the difference lies in the balance between its three main parties, which has hugely shifted. Instead of a younger Berlusconi, this time the leading force is the post-fascist Brothers of Italy (ECR), led by Giorgia Meloni, with 26 per cent, while Matteo Salvini’s Lega (8,7 per cent, ID) and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (8,1 per cent, EPP) are coming second and third by far. The coalition calls itself ‘centre-right’, but as Cas Mudde rightly argues, a coalition led by two main far-right partis cannot be defined as ‘centre-right’, even if the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, and his former Slovenian counterpart Janez Janša, and even EPP President Manfred Weber as selling it that way. 

The election campaign was short, sudden and extremely ugly. Real issues, such as household energy bills, a likely economic recession, rising inflation, increasing inequalities and the ecological crisis were kept at the margin, despite attempts by parts of the centre-left to make them relevant. But today, those issues are there, on the table, and will remain unsolved, at least for the vast majority of the people, while the usual happy few will make gains. 

The new government will be bad news for Italy, also because, as it always happens, ‘distractions’ will be created to turn heads elsewhere. One of them is the revision of the Italian Constitution, a masterpiece of democratic, social values and mechanisms, conceived by all democratic and antifascist forces after WWII. The most explicit goal of the right is to transform Italy into a presidential Republic with a directly elected president, who would, of course, have much more substantial prerogatives and power. ‘One alone man in the lead’ is not the right recipe for a country like Italy, as an even very superficial look at recent history perfectly illustrates. But there could be another, serious threat, concerning the interaction between the EU and national law. Amending the Constitution might put Italy in a similar situation as Poland.

Even if the right-wing coalition does not dispose of a 2/3 majority to amend the Constitution without a confirmative referendum, proposing an immediate unilateral constitutional change in an authoritarian and nationalistic direction is also an extremely telling sign, from those who come to power democratically, to then subvert the democratic order. We have examples from the past. Against those, the European Community (of women and men, not only of nations) was built. And here we are again, threatened. 

The warning lights are all blinking. The new government, according to the vast majority of its composition, is anti-European, sovereignist, inspired by Orbán’s bravery to ‘defend his national interests’, anti-vax and therefore against a ‘Europe of health’. The vast majority of it (Brothers of Italy and Lega) voted against the NextGenerationEU and the Italian Recovery Plan (by far the most substantial one) and would have preferred, as Meloni said, a “direct intervention of the IMF” in Italy. Meloni’s affinity with Vox in Spain, Salvini’s close tights with Le Pen in France, Orban, their links with the Polish government, not even to talk of Salvini’s and Berlusconi’s close personal relations with the Russian president Vladimir Putin, are more than enough to be worried.

Yet, there are clear indications of an attempt to normalise all this. From the first, institutional declarations coming from big countries on possible common goals, to the clear political signs emanating from other political families, first of all, the EPP, the establishment seems to conform – as it happened already… 100 years ago. The EPP family, in particular, could already be on the way to sealing cooperation in view of the elections to the European parliament in 2024. 

In a way, this has the merit of clarity. All the huge crises we are confronted with, need a new strong mindset. The Italian centre-left must be ready for a serious discussion about identity, values, goals, and leading principles. And about unity, including also what is left of the 5 Stars Movement. But so does the PES with his allies.On one hand, nationalism, the end of the EU as we know it, no new international multilateral order to promote peace, equality, financial and energy market rules, and ecological change. No social protection. No just and progressive tax system, no tax for the rich. Privatisation of public services. Fossil fuels proliferation. Or, on the other hand, a very strong international movement, that goes back to basic and courageous Social Democracy, that builds on international, democratic political movements and parties capable of generating a new positive hegemony in our societies. That gives real, sustainable answers to our people. It is a choice. There is no choice in between.

Photo credits: Shutterstock.com/M. Cantile

Find all related publications
Publications
28/02/2024

Next Left Vol.15

Progressive Ambition: How to shape Europe in the next decade
24/01/2024

Progressive Yearbook 2024

Looking back to look ahead
10/10/2023

Next Left country case studies

Exploring the state of Social Democracy in France, Austria, Romania and Australia
04/10/2023

Social democracy without the people

Case study of the Polish Democratic Left Alliance (SLD)
Find all related events
Events
Past
11/01/2024
Torun, Poland

Social democracy without the people? 

Policy study launch
24/01/2024
FEPS HQ

Progressive Yearbook launch

11 - 14/12/2023
Online (Expert meeting)

Next Left country case studies

Presentation by the authors
Find all related news
News
19/12/2023

Call for tender – Research project manager

Research within the framework of the project 'Social democracy without people. On the sources of the popularity of authoritarian populism in Poland'
12/12/2023

FEPS Young Academics Network, Cycle 9

Call for new members - Extended until 14 February 2024
23/06/2023

Call for tender – research and project coordination

This call for tender closed on 23/07/2023
23/05/2023

Open Progressive University

FEPS launches first e-learning platform for Social Democrats
Find all related in the media
In the media

Durchhalten ist nicht unmöglich

by Frankfurter Hefte 06/12/2023
'Persevering is not impossible' Article by Ania Skrzypek, FEPS Director for Research and Training, on the future of social democracy in Europe

Total honesty and far-right lies

by IPS Journal 04/12/2023
Dive into the insightful analysis published in IPS Journal by Tom Theuns, Assist. Prof at Leiden University, and László Andor, FEPS Secretary General, examining the Dutch election results and the conclusions that need to be drawn for a successful EU Integration

Sluta tro att SD-männen bara skojar om politiken

by AFTONBLADET 30/05/2023
'Stop thinking that the SD men are just joking about politics. When changes happen, they happen at lightning speed' Ania Skrzypek interviewed in this Swedish article about the Polish case

Polacy nieufni i “wyjątkowi” – “popandemiczne” badanie w UE

by TOK FM 22/05/2023
'Poles distrustful and "exceptional" - "post-pandemic" survey in the EU' TOK FM. Interview with Ania Skrzypek, FEPS Director for Research and Training, about the results of FEPS' European survey in six EU countries and the 'uniqueness' of the responses of the Polish people.