Political Turmoil in Italy, Will the Far Right Return to Rule the Country?

Murad Jandali | 2 years ago




Italian political parties, especially the far-right, began their election campaigns after Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi resigned from his post, which caused a shock wave across Europe and opened a period of instability for Italy and the European Union.

The office of the Italian President, Sergio Mattarella, stated in a statement on July 21, 2022, that the President signed a decree dissolving the Italian Parliament in preparation for early legislative elections after the government submitted its resignation.

Draghi, 74, submitted his resignation to President Mattarella after three parties in the coalition government withdrew their support for his government, namely: Forza Italia (center-right), the League (hard-left), and the populist Five Star Movement, which means destroying Draghi's efforts to resolve the political crisis afflicting the country.


 Severe Political Crisis

With the resignation of Mario Draghi, the European Union and NATO lost a major ally in their position in support of Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion, but they now fear that the two leaders of the Italian far-right will come to power, Giorgia Meloni, who doubts the viability of the European bloc, and Matteo Salvini, who is close to Moscow.

Their two parties, the neo-fascist Brothers of Italy and the League, have about 38% of voting intentions, according to an opinion poll conducted by Politico, about two months before the elections scheduled for September 25.

If the Forza Italia, the far-right party led by Silvio Berlusconi, joins them, expectations indicate that the so-called center-right coalition will receive 46% of the vote and will be the most likely to rule the country.

According to the poll, the Democratic Party won about 23% of the votes, while 12% went to the populist and anti-immigration Five Star Movement.

Draghi, who assumed the presidency of a national unity government in early 2021, whose mission was to address the Corona pandemic and the economic crisis that resulted from it, had already submitted his resignation on July 14, 2022, to President Mattarella, but he rejected it at that time.

Draghi considered that the national unity government he leads, which includes spectrums ranging from the left to the far-right, is no longer legitimate after boycotting the Five Star Movement, which is witnessing internal disputes and a decline in its popularity.

Until recently, the Five Star Movement was the largest party in the Italian Parliament, but that ended when Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio left the party last month to form another group, taking with him an unlimited number of MPs.

In the end, only the center and the left, represented by the Democratic Party, remained beside the resigned prime minister, and they fear running for early elections in light of opinion polls that all point to their defeat against the far-right.

According to analysts, "the reason for the resignation of the government and the recent exacerbation of political turmoil in Italy is mainly Draghi's failure to mobilize adequate support to face the inflation caused by the European conflict with Russia, which hampered Rome's plans to revive the country's economy, after a catastrophic collapse in the health sector during 2020, which resulted in an economic crisis whose results are still continuing today."

Former Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also submitted his resignation in January 2021, after a year and a half of ruling the country during its darkest economic and health crisis after 2020. In which the health sector collapsed due to the large outbreak of the Coronavirus after a party withdrew from the government coalition due to a severe political crisis.

The markets in Italy are witnessing anticipation, in light of the increase in Italian debt, against the decline of the Milan Stock Exchange, in evidence of market tension over the uncertainty in the third largest economy in the euro area, as markets prepare for the first-rate hike by the European Central Bank since 2011.


Far-Right Government

The Guardian, in an article on July 24, 2022, suggested the return of the far-right to rule Italy through a coalition of 3 parties (Brothers of Italy - League - Forza Italia).

The newspaper considered that "the leader of the largest party [Brothers of Italy], Giorgia Meloni, 45, whose illiberal policies are similar to those of Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban, will be a strong candidate to become prime minister of the next Italian government."

Meloni is best known for joining the fascist youth of the Italian social movement, heir to Benito Mussolini's party, at the age of 15, and in her meetings, she regularly identifies herself as a woman, a mother, an Italian, and a Christian.

Giorgia Meloni explained, in May 2021, in her autobiography, that Russia is part of the European value system, defending Christian identity and fighting Islamic fundamentalism.

She is close to the nationalist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban as well as the French far-right National Rally and Spanish Vox and has ties to the far-right in the United States.

Giorgia Meloni, who may become the next prime minister, wrote in a tweet on her Twitter account on July 21, 2022: "We are ready. This nation is in dire need of restoring its conscience, pride, and freedom."

This prospect would be worrisome, especially with the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine and the related energy crisis and the risk of economic stagnation. In addition, the assumption of a far-right government in Italy would constitute a threat to European unity on multiple fronts, according to the Guardian.

On issues such as immigration and rights, the Meloni-Salvini coalition is likely to align itself with countries such as Poland and Hungary in aggressively challenging European standards.

The Guardian recalled that Meloni had earlier called for the reassertion of the supremacy of the Italian constitution over EU law and the Italians' first policy on access to social welfare services and benefits.

Italy's European partners are also wary of Meloni's previous calls for a review of treaties, the adoption of a confederation of sovereign states instead of a European Union, and demands for a radical reform of the European Central Bank.

Curiously, Meloni has purified strong support for Ukraine and NATO since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, contrasting with the more ambiguous positions of both Salvini and Berlusconi, both of whom have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a related context, the Washington Post pointed out in a report on July 20, 2022, that "Meloni's chances of coming to power seem more realistic than ever, as her party leads the polls by a narrow margin against the center-left Democratic Party, but she is betting on the support of the Salvini and Berlusconi parties who abandoned Draghi."

"If Meloni does emerge as the biggest standard-bearer of the Italian right, it will mark one of the most significant journeys of a far-right politician into the European mainstream, outpacing veteran campaigners like France's Marine Le Pen," according to the newspaper.

"Questions are revolving around what a far-right government in Italy will represent for the European liberal establishment, a government led by Meloni may be much less enthusiastic about supporting Ukraine's military effort against Russia than Draghi, despite Meloni's insistence in recent weeks on its support for NATO," the newspaper added.

However, The Washington Post quoted UnHerd, a right-wing online newspaper, that it ruled out that Meloni would lead a revolution against Europe or the political establishment because she needed the support of the center-right, especially Berlusconi, to continue.


Europe's Fears

In its report on July 21, 2022, the French newspaper Le Monde expressed fears of geopolitical confusion that would result from the return to power of far-right parties with a past heavy with deference to Vladimir Putin, through upcoming elections, in light of the concern about energy with the approach of the winter season.

Draghi's resignation, which worries the whole of Europe, has caused a bit of turmoil in France, as the French Minister of State for Europe, Laurence Bonn, explained that "the expected departure of Mario Draghi, the pillar of Europe, has opened a period of uncertainty."

While French President Emmanuel Macron reacted moderately, he only praised a great statesman.

However, the European tone was different behind the scenes, as a diplomat working in Rome said that the Europeans had concerns because Draghi, who visited Kyiv last June, accompanied by Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, was an important stabilizing factor.

He added, "It is imperative that support for Ukraine continues, politically, economically and militarily, without obstacles, whatever the political color of the next government."

On his part, the European Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, criticized, in a rare situation, the parties that brought down former President of the European Central Bank (ECB) Mario Draghi, in front of the risks of plunging the country into a perfect storm, stressing that they lack a sense of responsibility.

The League's leader, Matteo Salvini, has always had close ties to Russia. In particular, in the past, he has stood proudly in T-shirts bearing the image of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In 2019, Salvini described the Russian President as the best statesman on earth today.

In early June, he also had to fend for himself after it was revealed that Salvini had dinner, on March 1, with the Russian ambassador to Italy, just days after the war in Ukraine.

On his part, lawyer Zaid al-Azem said in a statement to Al-Estiklal that "the Brothers of Italy topped the last two opinion polls in Italy. The party's leader, Giorgia Meloni, is a right-wing extremist who looks a lot like Marine Le Pen and is sympathetic to the Russians and does not believe in the European project or the continuation of the European Union."

As for what a far-right government in Italy represents for the European liberal institution, Mr. al-Azem indicated that "it represents a danger and evasion of Italy's obligations, especially since Italy is an important and influential country in the European Union."

"The far-right in general seeks to dismantle the European Union and return history to before 2002, that is, to the pre-Euro single currency, in addition to retreating from supporting any European country," he added.

"The Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs had revealed a few days ago his fear of the presence of Russian fingers behind what is happening in Italy of a government crisis and a political turmoil, which began with Draghi's resignation and the call for early elections," Mr. al-Azem said.

Whoever wins the September elections will have to negotiate an extension of €200 billion in public debt by the end of the year, the Guardian reported.

"With interest rates rising to combat inflation, and Italian borrowing costs heading toward the kind of levels last seen in 2012, Rome may once again need to rely on the ECB's generosity in bond purchases," she said.

The new government must also defend its position to receive the next tranche of EU Recovery Fund money, totaling €190 billion, which Draghi originally negotiated, as he will not forgive any future government for spoiling that, according to the newspaper.