“The election of the first woman prime minister in a country always represents a break with the past, and that is certainly a good thing,” Hillary Clinton said to an Italian journalist at the Venice International Film Festival earlier this month. She was speaking of Giorgia Meloni, a member of the Chamber of Deputies, who could make history if the Brothers of Italy party does as well as expected in Sunday’s elections.
That would be one sort of break with the past. But Meloni would also represent continuity with Italy’s darkest episode: the interwar dictatorship of Benito Mussolini. As Clinton would surely concede, this is not such a good thing.
If Meloni comes to power at the end of this month, it will be as head of a coalition whose other members—Matteo Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia—were each once the main force on Italy’s populist right. Brothers of Italy, which was polling at 23 percent earlier this month, has overtaken these more established parties and would represent the bloc’s largest component.
Brothers of Italy, which Meloni has led since 2014, has an underlying and sinister familiarity. The party formed a decade ago to carry forth the spirit and legacy of the extreme right in Italy, which dates back to the Italian Social Movement (MSI), the party that formed in place of the National Fascist Party, which was banned after World War II. Now, just weeks before the 100th anniversary of the March on Rome—the October 1922 event that put Mussolini in power—Italy may have a former MSI activist for its prime minister and a government rooted in fascism. In the words of Ignazio La Russa, Meloni’s predecessor as the head of the Brothers of Italy: “We are all heirs of Il Duce.”
Meloni in many ways sounds more like other modern national-conservative politicians such as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and America’s MAGA Republicans than Il Duce. “There’s a leftist ideology, so-called globalist,” she told The Washington Post recently, “that aims to consider as an enemy everything that defined you—everything that has shaped your identity and your civilization.”
Meloni’s enemies list is familiar: “LGBT lobbies” that are out to harm women and the family by destroying “gender identity”; George Soros, an “international speculator,” she has said, who finances global “mass immigration” that threatens a Great Replacement of white, native-born Italians. Meloni shows affinity for authoritarian strongmen: Like Marine Le Pen, until recently the leader of the National Rally party in France, Meloni has expressed support for Russian President Vladimir Putin—although she has muted that enthusiasm since his invasion of Ukraine. [Continue reading…]
Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi has defended Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, saying Russia’s leader was “pushed” into the conflict.
The 85-year-old said Russian troops were meant to replace the government with “decent people” then leave.
The three-time Italian PM is a long-term ally of the Russian president. [Continue reading…]
Giorgia Meloni presents a danger to the democratic balance in Europe. Her leadership looks to be the antithesis of what Italy needs – and not just at this difficult moment.
The danger arises for Europe because Italy has always been a laboratory: it has foreshadowed the crises of other countries. Italy had Mussolini before Hitler and the leftwing extremist Red Brigades before Action Directe appeared in France and the Red Army Faction followed suit in Germany. Italy had Berlusconi before the US got Trump. And after years of Berlusconi misrule, Italy produced the Five Star Movement, the first populist party led by a comedian, before the rest of Europe caught up. Five Star’s agenda was political disruption, often without any thought to the consequences.
Meloni’s moral and economic inspiration is Viktor Orbán, the man who in recent years has destroyed the opposition in Hungary and achieved legitimacy by weaponising popular consensus. He has provided an ephemeral sense of security but Hungarians have paid for it dearly in the form of economic instability and, above all, the loss of their rights. [Continue reading…]