Behind Giorgia Meloni, the radical right at the gates of power in Italy

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Behind Giorgia Meloni, the radical right at the gates of power in Italy

The candidate of the Brothers of Italy, a party described as “post- Fascist”, is in the lead in the voting intentions and could well become the first woman to lead the Italian government.

Giorgia Meloni is leading in the polls ahead of the Italian election this weekend.

Thursday evening, thousands of activists from the Italian right had agreed to meet, flags in hand, in Piazza del Popolo, in the heart of Rome.

A few days before the election, the candidates of the parties of the conservative coalition paraded one after the other on stage.

First, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, today now 85 years old. Then Matteo Salvini, the leader of La Ligue and controversial former Minister of the Interior.

But it was above all the last of the speakers who aroused the enthusiasm of the crowd: Giorgia Meloni, 45, head of Fratelli d'Italia, the Brothers of Italy.

Its speed is fast. At the end of the campaign, she has several messages to send to her constituents. Among these, a flight against journalists and commentators. What interests us is what the Italians think, she says.

Leading in the polls, with about 30% of voting intentions, Giorgia Meloni leads a party described as post-fascist. On the flags waved by his supporters, we can see the green, white and red flame, inherited from formations that followed the end of the Second World War and the fall of Benito Mussolini.

Supporters of Giorgia Meloni and other right-wing parties at a rally in Rome.

Meloni herself has previously expressed her admiration for the former dictator. In a report by the France 3 network, broadcast more than 25 years ago, a young Giorgia Meloni, already involved in politics, declared that in her opinion Mussolini is a good politician. That is to say, everything he did, he did for Italy.

Years later, the campaign leader attempts to distance itself from this heritage and polish its image.

In a video recorded in several languages ​​and broadcast during the campaign, we see Giorgia Meloni, behind her desk, declaring that the Italian right has relegated fascism to history.

“I read that a victory for Fratelli d'Italia in the September elections would lead to disaster, to an authoritarian turn, to Italy's exit from the euro and to other such nonsense. None of this is true.

— Giorgia Meloni, Fratelli d'Italia candidate

Racism is dead, Mussolini is dead, adds Guido Crosetto, co-founder with Meloni of the Brothers of Italy, whom we met in his Roman office.

Nevertheless, according to Francesco Maselli , correspondent for Opinion and observer of Italian political life, if the leaders try to present a different image of their party, some members of the base recall what are the roots of the political formation.< /p>

Giorgia Meloni is the leader in the polls in Italy.

He sets the example of a event that occurred at the very end of the campaign.

There is a party official, a party militant, who made the Roman salute, therefore the Fascist salute, during a funeral, in full election campaign. So that shows. They have a hard time hiding that, he says.

Francesco Maselli nevertheless judges that the impact of such gestures is limited in a country where the post-fascists have already been trivialized.

“In 1994, Silvio Berlusconi formed a government with the post-fascists. So in fact, it's already normalized, we're not in a novelty. »

— Francesco Maselli, correspondent for Opinion

Giorgia Meloni herself is not an unknown figure to Italians. Elected in 2006, she was the youngest Vice-President of Parliament and was part of a government of Silvio Berlusconi as Minister Delegate for Youth.

During her campaign , the candidate of the Brothers of Italy has mainly bet on the priority issues of the electorate, such as inflation and energy prices. Giorgia Meloni also hammered home themes dear to the far right, such as immigration and security.

The candidate has also been criticized by her opponents on the left for having shared on social networks the video of a rape committed by an asylum seeker, precisely to address issues related to security.

Supporter of a pronatalist policy, Giorgia Meloni has also had to repeat on several occasions that if she wanted to expand the options to avoid abortions, she did not intend to abolish or modify the law which guarantees the access to the procedure.

The main faces of the right-wing and far-right coalition that hopes to gain power in Italy.

There is a mixture of inexperience and a very radical identity, says Democratic Party deputy Filippo Sensi of Meloni's troops.

Guido Crosetto, ally of the leader of the Brothers of Italy, ensures for his part that Giorgia Meloni is different from other figures of the European radical right, such as Marine Le Pen.

Meloni is in favor of NATO and the Western alliance, he assures us. He adds that she leads a group of elected officials within the European Union (EU), an institution which she nonetheless wishes to reform by demanding greater sovereignty for member states.

Left-wing politician Filippo Sensi believes it's not just Giorgia Meloni that Italians and Europeans should be wary of.

Filippo Sensi, MP for the Democratic Party, fears the coming to power of a right-wing coalition.

Given Italy's political system, if the leader of the Brotherhood of Italy is appointed President of the Council, the equivalent of Prime Minister, she will have to lead with other parties, some of which have very different positions from hers on European and international issues.

On the Ukrainian file, for example, Filippo Sensi underlines that the coalition has very contrasting positions. Giorgia Meloni criticizes the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as she repeated in her speech on Thursday. But his allies Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi have shown great closeness to Vladimir Putin in the past.

Faced with a divided left and center, the right-wing coalition remains the group that is in a better position to form the next government in Rome.

Giorgia Meloni, who has been one of the main opposition figures in recent years when all the other major parties have participated to the last governments of national unity, is now at the gates of power.

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