Giorgia Meloni Wins Voting in Italy, in Breakthrough for Europe’s Hard Right

ROME – Italy turned a page in European history on Sunday by electing a far-right coalition led by Giorgia Meloni, who has a long track record of defeating the European Union, international bankers and Europeans. Migration has raised concerns about the country’s credibility in the Western alliance.

Results released early Monday showed Ms Meloni, leader of Italy’s National Brotherhood, a party descended from the remnants of fascism, leading a right-wing coalition with a majority in the country. Congress, defeating a fractured left and a rising opposition. founding movement.

It will still be a few weeks before a new Italian Parliament is formed and a new government is formed, leaving plenty of time for political intrigues and the horse trade in a coalition with vast differences. But Ms. Meloni’s strong showing, with about 26% of the vote, the highest of any party, makes her the country’s most popular first female prime minister.

While she is a strong supporter of Ukraine, her coalition partners greatly admire Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, and have criticized sanctions against Russia.

Ms. Meloni, who is known for her sublime eloquence and cult of personality, said in her victory speech at nearly 3 a.m., saying during her victory speech at nearly 3 a.m., Ms. Meloni , the center-right leading Italy.

After saying she had suffered a “violent election campaign” with unfair attacks, Ms Meloni spoke of “reciprocal respect” and rebuilding “trust in institutions”. “. She posed flashing a victory sign. “We are at the starting point,” she said, adding, “Italy chose us, and we would never betray that.”

Victory, in an election with lower-than-normal turnout, comes when it was previously taboo and marginalized parties have Nazi heritage or fascism are on the rise. Go mainstream – and win elections – across Europe.

This month, a far-right group founded by neo-Nazis and skinheads became the largest party in Sweden. coalition capable of operating. In France this year, far-right leader Marine Le Pen – for the second time in a row – reached the final round of the presidential election. In Spain, the far-right Vox, a party closely affiliated with Ms. Meloni, is on the rise.

But it was Italy, the birthplace of fascism and a founding member of the European Union, that sent shockwaves across the continent after a period of European-centered stability brought about by the European Union. Prime Minister Mario Draghi led, who directed hundreds of billions of euros. in the recovery fund to modernize Italy and help lead the European response to Russia.

“This is a sad day for the country,” Debora Serracchiani, a leader of the Democratic Party, the underperforming party and will now lead the opposition, said in a statement. Monday.

Ms Meloni’s victory shows that the appeal of nationalism – of which she is a strong supporter – remains unrestricted, despite breakthroughs by EU states in rallying sovereignty and resources in recent years, first to combat the coronavirus pandemic and then Mr. Putin sparked the biggest conflict in Europe since World War II.

How and how deeply, a right-wing coalition in Italy led by Ms. Meloni could threaten that cohesion is now a top concern of the European establishment.

Ms. Meloni has faithfully and consistently supported Ukraine and its right to defend itself against Russian aggression and has vowed to arm Kyiv if she is prime minister. But her coalition partners – Matteo Salvini, the federation’s fire chief, and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi – have sided with Mr. Putin, questioning the sanctions and echoing his propaganda. he.

That rift, and stiff competition among right-wing leaders, could be fatal to the coalition, leading to a short-lived government. Some political analysts, however, say Ms Meloni, once in power, may be tempted to reduce support for sanctions that are unpopular in many Italian countries.

If she does, there is concern that Italy could be the weak link in breaking the European Union’s strong unified position against Russia.

Ms. Meloni spent her election campaign reassuring an international audience that her support for Ukraine was unwavering. She sought to allay concerns by condemning Mussolini, whom she once admired, and Italy’s Fascist past. She also offered more vocal support for Italy’s place in the European Union and distanced herself from Ms Le Pen and Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, with whom she had previously competed.

But that tendency is more for the international market than for Italian voters, who don’t care much about her past, or even her ties to illiberal democracies. Italian voters have not turned to the right, political scientists say, but have instead relied on a long-standing desire for a new leader who can solve all the evils of surname.

Meloni realized she had come to the right place at the right time. Hers is virtually the only major party remaining outside Mr Draghi’s national unity government, allowing her to blend in with a growing proportion of the opposition. Her support increased from 4 percent to 26 percent.

After a one-party uprising in Mr Draghi’s broad unity government in July, far-right parties, eager to go to the elections they were supported to win, seized the opportunity and seized , with Mrs. Meloni in the pole position.

There is little concern in the Italian establishment that she will undermine Italian democracy – she has been a consistent supporter of elections.

There is also widespread belief that Italy’s reliance on hundreds of billions of euros in bailout funds from the European Union will force Ms Meloni and her government to stick to spending, reform and master plans. established by Mr. Draghi.

But there are concerns about Ms. Meloni’s lack of experience and her party’s lack of technical expertise, especially in running the eurozone’s third-largest economy, and Mr Draghi have kept in close contact with her, both to secure her support for Ukraine and, insiders say, to help find someone who can provide economic continuity. .

Ms. Meloni entered politics in the post-Nazi era, the far right sought to redefine itself by embracing new symbols and texts, especially “Lord of the RingsAnd other works by British writer JRR Tolkien, to get away from the taboos of Nazism.

She grew up as a single mother in a working-class area of ​​Rome, and was a woman, and her mother was central to her political identity.

Being a woman has also distinguished her and marked a major shift away from her union partners, especially Mr. Berlusconi, the subject of endless sex scandals.

But Ms. Meloni, Mr. Berlusconi and Mr. Salvini all share a tough vision for the country. Ms Meloni has called for a naval blockade against migrants and sowed fears of a “great replacement” of indigenous Italians. The three share populist proposals for deep tax cuts that economists fear will increase Italy’s already huge debt and traditional views on the family.

Despite the constraints of the Italian Constitution, which is clearly anti-Fascist and designed to prevent the rise of another Mussolini, many libertarians are now worried that the right-wing coalition will erode country standards. There is concern that if the coalition wins two-thirds of the seats in Parliament, it will be able to change the Constitution to increase the power of the government.

On Thursday, during one of Ms Meloni’s last rallies ahead of the election, she exclaimed that “if the Italians give us the numbers to do it, we will”.

But the coalition, while winning 44% of the vote and a majority in Congress, is unlikely to reach that level.

The main party of the left, the Democrats, won only 19% of the vote, but all guaranteed defeat by failing to mend differences with other liberal and centrist parties, including a group new peace. The moderates, backed by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and attracting some of Mr Berlusconi’s former party leaders, who were disillusioned with his hard-right right, did better than expected. wait, but still at single number.

What really held back after a crisis were their former government partners, the Five Star Movement, the anti-establishment movement that caused the downfall of Mr. Draghi’s government when it revolted in July.

In 2018, the party’s rhetoric of destroying elites made it the country’s most popular party and the largest force in Congress. Years of governance revealed its incompetence and infighting and it exploded, appearing on the brink of extinction. But during the election campaign, the party pushed ahead in the south of the country and won 15% of the vote.

That unexpected strength was ingrained in Ms Meloni’s support, but with the backing of Mr Salvini’s League party, with just under 9 per cent and Mr Berlusconi’s 8 per cent, together they were strong enough to take the reins. permission. That suggests Meloni has made her clearest statement yet about the prime ministership in her negotiations with Italian President Sergio Mattarella next month. A new government is likely to be formed in late October or early November.

But the message of the end of a European taboo period, and of new change, was sent.

Ms Meloni said in a final interview ahead of the election that her victory would be “redemption” for all those who “for decades have had to bow their heads” and who have “alternative visions”. from the main trend of the system of power.”

Elisabetta Povoledo In Rome, Gaia Pianigiani in Florence and Emma Bubola in Verona contributed reporting.

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