Thursday, December 1

‘We need to unite against this nationalism’: Italians air fears after victory for populist right | Giorgia Meloni

Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s far-right League, has promised that his alliance with Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy will deliver a long-lasting government as Italians began to digest the outcome of an election that delivered the country’s most rightwing government since the end of the second world war.

Final results on Monday gave the coalition control of both houses of parliament with 44% of the vote and confirmed the swing in the balance of power in the Italian far-right towards Meloni after her party made spectacular gains in the League’s northern strongholds of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia.

Meloni is expected to be given a mandate from president Sergio Mattarealla to form a government after 13 October, meaning she could take office by the end of next month.

Brothers of Italy, a party with neo-fascist origins, scored 26% of the total vote, compared with the League’s 9%, an abysmal result for a party which in 2019 was polling at almost 40%. The third member of the coalition is Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.

The outcome nonetheless makes Salvini, who enacted tough anti-migrant measures during his stint as interior minister in 2018-19, a key protagonist in a government that will be hostile towards immigrants, LGBT people and women seeking to access safe abortions.

“There is a lot to be worried about, as for Meloni to respond to her electorate she will maintain her promises on things that will hit the weakest communities hard, such as immigrants,” said Paolo Branchesi, an activist for the Refugees Welcome association.

Early in the election campaign, Meloni called for the navy to turn migrants back to Africa, while Salvini, eager to return to the interior ministry, said last week that he “can’t wait” to resume a policy of blocking migrant rescue ships from entering Italian ports.

“They will bring many difficulties for migrants – in the phase of their migration and the conditions they find upon arrival in Italy,” said Branchesi.

Both the League and Brothers of Italy blocked a law in parliament last year that would have criminalised homophobia, arguing that it would have eroded freedom of speech. Meloni and Salvini have repeatedly made it clear that they are against gay adoption and surrogacy.

“We are facing an extreme right that is really worrying, especially if you look at their closeness with Viktor Orbàn’s Hungary, Poland and Russia,” said Mario Colamarino, president of the Mario Mieli Circle of Homosexual Culture association. “We need to be better, more vigilant and unite against this nationalism and to protect civil rights. Meloni is not a phenomenon built in a day, but a dark cloud that has been hovering over us these last 10 years, and now she’s in power.”

Given that Meloni, 45, is calling the shots in the coalition, one of the biggest threats to the stability of her government could come from Salvini, a political chameleon who will not only have to renounce his desire to become prime minister but could be stopped from returning to the interior ministry.

“He is arrogant, and you never know if what he says today he will repeat tomorrow,” said Sofia Ventura, a politics professor at the University of Bologna. “It will be a difficult relationship, but they need to stay in power, and so maybe their negotiations will be contained.”

As she absorbed the election outcomes, Luisa Rizzitelli, a spokesperson for Rebel Network, a women’s group, said she was more angry with the leftwing alliance led by the centre-left Democratic party (PD) over its lacklustre campaign and failure to come up with a strong enough opposition to the right. PD leader Enrico Letta said on Monday that he would step down at the party’s next congress, which would be held soon.

“It’s shocking for me that we’ve once again managed to vote for a political formation that doesn’t take a distance from those who deny human rights, like the Vox party [in Spain] and Orbàn,” said Rizzitelli.

“But if you analyse it from the Italian political reality, it’s not so surprising because the PD is so far removed from civil society, and has distanced itself so much from part of a population that needed another response. Italy is not only made up of a cultural elite that sides with the PD, but of ordinary working people who more easily understood what Meloni had to offer.”

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