Analysis | Post-fascism in power in Italy, at the heart of Europe

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Analysis | Post-fascism in power in Italy, the heart of Europe

Will the new “right + extreme right” majority be strong ? Since 1945, governments in Italy have lasted an average of 15 months.

Giorgia Meloni is leader of Brothers of Italy and future Prime Minister.

Italy voted on September 25 and, for the first time in its history, a woman will lead the government. Also for the first time, it will be a party classified on the far right, Fratelli d'Italia or Brothers of Italy, which will dominate the ruling coalition.

For starters: is it fair to use a word like postfascist to refer to Giorgia Meloni, the future Italian prime minister, and her party?

When it comes to political labels, words are often tricky, contradictory or approximate. Fascism did exist. It is a model of dictatorship born in Italy exactly a century ago, with Benito Mussolini, who then allied himself with Hitler. They both ended very badly after ravaging the humanity around them.

They have more or less legitimate, more or less recognized descendants, grandchildren or great-grandchildren. Giorgia Meloni and her Brothers in Italy can be described as postfascists, in the sense that they descend ideologically from this lineage in a very visible way.

Meloni, herself, made in his youth the praise of Mussolini. But during the campaign that ended, she repeated that fascism is history, and that the country has turned the page.

Ideologically, if we look at his program and if we listen to his speeches, we find a person who expresses, on subjects such as law and order, respect for authority, abortion, the traditional family, religion, homosexual rights, gender ideology or immigration, positions that can easily be classified on the right, even very right.

The question is, will, once in power, Giorgia Meloni want, or be able, to apply these ideas in the Italy of 2022? With her allies in government, with the European powers that will keep an eye on her?

Meloni lives a lot in the ideological fight. In her speeches, she can be very emphatic, if not more so. There is one – easy to find on YouTube – in Spanish (which she speaks very well, as well as French and English), delivered in front of her neo-Franco friends of the Vox party in Spain and which does not is not pricked with worms.

In a vertiginous and aggressive crescendo, we hear him cry out: Yes to the universality of the Cross! No to Islamist violence!

At the same time, if one reads the program, one finds that the Brothers of Italy do not really intend to abolish the right to abortion or to prohibit homosexual marriage. Could Meloni only? His right-wing allies, Silvio Berlusconi (85 years old and tottering, who now plays a supporting role) and Matteo Salvini (whose La Lega party has suffered a sharp decline), are not particularly mobilized on these issues. /p>

There are other issues, such as immigration, where the three-party coalition that is coming to power really intends to act and close the doors to Italy to newcomers.

Migrants disembark from a Spanish boat that has docked at the port of Messina, Sicily.

More than four million irregular migrants have arrived in the country over the past 15 years, mainly through the 'North Africa. Many Italians felt pushed aside and abandoned by the rest of Europe, due to Italy's geography in relation to the Mediterranean.

Will the new right + extreme right majority be solid? Italy is a country where governments fall very quickly. Average since 1945: one government every 15 months.

In any case, his victory is very clear. The Brothers of Italy, plus Berlusconi's Forza Italia, plus Salvini's League (Lega) – three parties that had agreed in advance to go to the elections together – will have around 60% of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies with 44 % of votes cast.

The formation of Giorgia Meloni, with 26% of the votes, clearly dominates the other two formations, which each obtain only around 9%. We'll see if the two notorious machos Berlusconi and Salvini will agree to play second fiddle behind a woman at the helm.

Still, 56% of Italian voters did not vote for the winners, opting instead for the Social Democrats, Liberals, Greens, 5 Star Movement, etc. But all these groups were separated, in scattered order. They were crushed by a complex electoral system, but which, in the end, leads to distortions similar to those of our first-past-the-post system.

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This photo shows the front pages of newspapers the day after the September 25 election in Italy.

At 64%, the turnout was exceptionally low. This is a historic low, in an Italy traditionally champion of electoral mobilization and where, until 15 years ago, it was always above 80%.

More than a third of Italians therefore abstained. In this central country in the European architecture, many feel that the vote and the identity of leaders or parties – before the supranational powers of the European Union, or before big international capital – can no longer make a big difference. Hence the massive abstention.

At the end of the campaign, there was a small scandal when Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, declared that if the italy dared to step out of line with its new government, Brussels would have the means to bring it back on the right track!

One ​​of the big questions is the place of the Meloni government in the world. Compared to Europe, Russia, NATO and the war in Ukraine.

Those who are labeled in Europe as nationalists or populists present a divided front among themselves. More specifically, on the Russian question, the division passes even within the new coalition in power.

The nationalist right is in power in countries like Poland and Hungary, to which Meloni says she is close. One can imagine that, to curb possible centralizing reforms from Brussels, these states will be able to count on Italy as a new ally. Unlike outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi, alias Super-Mario or the Banker, who is a loyal European.

NATO headquarters are in Brussels, Belgium.

The supposed front of nationalists in Europe is far from homogeneous. Poland is resolutely anti-Russian and pro-Ukrainian. But Viktor Orban's Hungary, often compared to Poland for its internal regime, is completely on the other side. Orban is close and a good client of Putin.

Moreover, Meloni, despite his strident radicalism on social issues, lowers his voice when it comes to Europe or Western alliances. Sincere belief? Tactical stance? In any case, she said she was in favor of NATO and wanted to reform and not demolish the European Union, calling for a Europe of fatherlands.

She has put water in its anti-European wine. We can recall that the country is still waiting – under certain conditions – some 200 billion euros (280 billion Canadian dollars) from the famous European Recovery Fund, of which Italy is, per capita and in absolute figures, the main beneficiary country. A good reason to take it easy.

On the Russian question, despite the fact that Berlusconi and Salvini were true friends of Putin, Meloni followed and again reiterated at the end of the campaign his line of support for Ukraine and NATO.


So there are forces in the new European and Italian situation that can pull in one direction or the other.

Can inflation, the energy crisis and war fuel a climate of mistrust that would push the Meloni government to radicalization? Or on the contrary, will it be inclined to evolve towards the center in a pragmatic way, with all the constraints and limits that are those of a country in the heart of Europe, in 2022?

This question – far-right radicalization or forced refocusing – remains open, with the post-fascists coming to power in the European Union's third-largest economy.

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