Giorgia Meloni is the far right politician who just won the race to become Italy’s next prime minister; her Fratelli d’Italia, FDI (Brothers of Italy) party gained the highest number of votes 25 September national election, although the turnout was the lowest ever. Her declaration that her far right party has consigned fascism to history has received sceptical responses. Meloni, aged 45, was a journalist before becoming a politician. She has been the leader of FDI since 2014 and the president of the European Conservatives and Reformists Party since 2020. She became a member of Italy’s Chamber of Deputies in 2006; served as Minister of Youth in Silvio Berlusconi’s fourth government from 2008 to 2011.
She claims that the Italian right has handed fascism over to history for decades, unequivocally condemning any kind of restraint of democracy and reprehensible anti-Jewish laws as no longer part of her party’s agenda. She has said that FDI is now more comparable with the Tories in the UK, Republicans in the USA and Likud in Israel. She now leads a coalition that includes Matteo Salvini’s far right Lega and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, which, consistent with forecasts, won the general election on 25 September.
Her party is a successor to the Movimento Sociale Italiana, MSI (Italian Social Movement) formed in 1946 by supporters of the former dictator, Benito Mussolini, that never completely cut off ties with its past. It was renamed Movimento Sociale Italiano – Destra Nazionale, MSI–DN (Italian Social Movement – National Right) as a neo-fascist, nationalist, later a national conservative party in 1972. MSI later transformed itself into the Alleanza Nazionale (National Alliance), its youth movement led by Meloni until the party was dissolved and she went on to found Fratelli d’Italia. FDI kept MSI’s tricoloured flame in its logo and headquarters at the same address on Via della Scrofa in central Rome, where MSI set up their office in 1946.
Meloni has spoken very favourably ofMussolini as a good politician; in an interview with the French newscast Soir 3 in 1996 she said he had been the best politician in the last 50 years, a little more than slightly wrong since he was executed in the spring of 1945. During May 2020, she praised her parent party’s founder, Giorgio Almirante, who had been a Nazi collaborator and editor-in-chief of an anti-Semitic, racist magazine La Difesa della Razza (In Defence of Race) which published the Manifesto della razza (Manifesto of Race) in 1938 as having been a hero. Mussolini’s granddaughter Rachele, a member of FDI, won the most votes in Rome’s council elections in October 2021. Enrico Michetti, the party’s mayoral candidate, said that the raised armed Roman salute, with the right arm fully extended, facing forward, with palm down and fingers touching either raised at an angle or held out parallel to the ground which has fascist connotations, ought to be revived since it was more hygienic during Covid19. FDI’s entire pedigree is through and through fascist.
She has expressed hard line views on immigration, LGBT, same sex marriage and civil unions that have gained popular support of both traditionalist and Catholic voters. She has, however, relaxed her once rigid opposition to EU membership. That is very close to the position Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (National Rally) has adopted in France. She is also an admirer of the Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán, cooperates with Jarosław Kaczyński in Poland and is close to Santiago Abascal of Vox in Spain. All of them are hard right but not definably fascist, which is where Meloni stands out.
What makes it all the more worrying, is that a resolution backed by 81% of MEPs who voted backed the motion that Hungary is no longer a full democracy. The European Parliament stated that Hungary had become a ‘hybrid regime of electoral autocracy’ in reference to the decline of democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law. Hungary’s leader Viktor Orbán is, as already said, somebody she admires. But then without explicitly supporting Vladimir Putin and his war against Ukraine, she has hinted that that is her position. The electoral outcome of the Swedish elections that have put the balance of power in the hands of their hard right is almost certainly encouragement for her. The boosts to her growing confidence will make her all the more dangerous
It is most likely Meloni and her party will find ways of making disruptive demands in the European Parliament with other hard right parties. It is as yet to be seen, but she has been called the most dangerous woman in Europe. Whilst this may be the case, we must always bear in mind the long established record of Italian governments not seeing their mandate out and coalitions falling apart. Aligning her party with two volatile men, Berlusconi and Salvini, and their parties has all the promise of a fragile partnership typical in Italy. That may be the saving grace of Europe.
Featured image by JÉSHOOTS on Pixels.