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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

ANALYSIS: Will Italy’s hard right win the election with a ‘super majority’?

Italy’s right-wing coalition is set to win the upcoming election easily, and polls now say it could take an unprecedented majority that would give it sweeping powers to alter the constitution. How likely is this to happen?

ANALYSIS: Will Italy’s hard right win the election with a 'super majority'?
Italian hard-right party leaders Matteo Salvini and Giorgia Meloni look set for near-certain victory at upcoming elections, but just how much power will voters give them? Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

The right-wing bloc of parties led by Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy continues to enjoy a wide lead in the polls ahead of the September 25th general election, the latest surveys consistently show.

In fact, the question people in Italy are asking now is not whether the right will win the election, but by how much.

READ ALSO: Who is Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s likely next prime minister?

With other political forces divided, they’re close to achieving a two-thirds majority in both the Lower House and the Senate – a so-called super majority or absolute majority (maggioranza assoluta) that would allow it to make changes to the political system itself, and therefore the constitution, without consulting voters via a referendum.

The latest analysis shows the right-wing alliance, which also includes Matteo Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, is now just two or three percent away from achieving the share of the vote needed to potentially give it a majority of the seats in both houses of parliament.

The right is now 19 percent ahead of the centre-left bloc in the run up to the election, and needs a lead of at least 21-22 percent to secure a qualified majority in both houses, according to projections by Youtrend/CattaneoZanetto & Co.

The opinion polls used for the analysis put the right-wing bloc’s total current projected voter share at 48.5 percent, with the left-wing bloc led by the Democratic Party (PD) expected to take 29.5 percent.

The survey maps a recent poll of voting intentions by Quorum/YouTrend to recently-redrawn electoral districts. 

READ ALSO: An introductory guide to the Italian political system

It highlights up to 67 seats in the lower house and Senate that are likely to be decisive in turning a landslide election victory into a right-wing majority in parliament.

Italy has a hybrid electoral system, which assigns a third of seats by first-past-the-post, and the rest in colleges based on proportional representation. It also has a drastically reduced number of seats available this time following recent reforms.

The right-wing alliance is projected to take as many as 271 seats out of 400 in the lower house, and 131 out of 200 in the Senate.

This is not an absolute certainty, analysts note. The likelihood of the right gaining this majority depends on the size of its lead.

READ ALSO: Italian elections: What are the main parties’ policies for foreigners?

Italy's Prime Minister, Mario Draghi addressing the Senate on June 21st, 2022.

Italy’s Senate on June 21st, 2022. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

A two-thirds majority is “possible” for the center-right “if the advantage in both chambers is around 21-22 percent,” Youtrend’s analysis explains.

Such a majority then becomes “probable” with “an advantage over the center-left of more than + 26 percent”, it says.

A political force achieving a majority large enough to change the constitution would be unprecedented in Italy’s modern history, and could mean major changes to the country’s political system – including to how the president is elected, or the powers the prime minister has.

All three leaders of the right-wing alliance have called for Italy to adopt a ‘French-style’ system which would mean the president is directly elected by voters,, instead of by lawmakers as is currently the case. This would require changing the constitution.

The projection of election results was based on a scenario in which PD refuses to form an alliance with smaller but significant parties, such as the populist Five Star Movement or centrist Italia Viva.

PD leader Enrico Letta on Friday insisted to reporters that a right-wing victory was “not a foregone conclusion” and said there was still “everything to play for”, following taunts from Salvini about the left knowing they were sure to lose.

With a massive 35-40 percent of voters still saying they’re undecided, according to polls, the results are far from set in stone.

Letta said young people in particular “have not yet decided who to vote for” – a belief that has apparently been driving party leaders to post a flurry of TikTok videos this week in an attempt to reach younger voters, with under-25s allowed to vote for senators for the first time in these elections following recent reforms.

READ ALSO: What election promises have Italy’s political parties made so far?

But while Italian politics is notoriously volatile and alliances near impossible to predict, the right’s large projected voter share, plus the left’s failure to form an equally strong alliance, mean a political force able to mount a credible opposition looks unlikely to emerge.

Even if PD and the left-wing bloc allied with both Five Star and Italia Viva – something it has so far ruled out – this would currently amount to around 41 percent of the vote: still some five percent behind the right.

But even if the hard right forms a government with an unprecedented majority, will it last long enough to put that power to much use?

Prominent politicians including Italy’s outgoing foreign minister, Luigi Di Maio, confidently predict that a Meloni-led government would barely last a year before falling apart – as Italian governments so often tend to within a relatively short space of time.

Find all The Local’s latest news on the Italian election race here.

Member comments

  1. Very interesting article, thanks. Very clear except in one respect. I know I should get out more but it is important to distinguish between percentages and percentage points when reporting polls, surveys etc. For example, saying “The right is now 19 percent ahead of the centre-left bloc” is just incorrect. The right is actually 19 (percentage) points ahead of the centre-left.

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

EXPLAINED: What will a far-right government mean for Italy?

EU reform, 'flat tax' and welfare cuts - here are the main points of the joint programme agreed by the right-wing coalition that triumphed in Sunday's elections in Italy.

EXPLAINED: What will a far-right government mean for Italy?

The three parties that make up Italy’s so-called centrodestra, the right-wing coalition that has stormed the polls and is now expected to form a government with a large majority, campaigned on a joint manifesto that promised to slash taxes and put ‘Italians first’ – whatever the cost.

The contents of the programme were agreed in advance between Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy, Matteo Salvini’s populist League, and Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative Forza Italia.

Meloni’s success – topping the polls, well ahead of her allies – will likely affect how and if these pledges are implemented.

FdI is the most far-right of the three parties, so with them leading the government we can expect a focus on policies that align with its strongly nativist, conservative ideology.

Pledges made throughout the manifesto lack detail, but here’s an idea of what they’re promising to deliver once in power.

Economy and social policy

While the programme says Italy should make “full use” of the almost 200 billion euros ($193 billion) earmarked under the EU’s post-pandemic recovery plan, it also talks about changing the agreement with Brussels.

Italy’s previous government agreed to major structural reforms in return for the money, which Meloni’s party appears keen to renegotiate.

The manifesto says there are “changed conditions”, noting rising costs of energy and raw materials.

Gas stove.

The right-wing coalition has promised to protect households from soaring energy bills, though no concrete details have been given so far. Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

It calls for a reduction in the tax burden for families, businesses and the self-employed, including a flat tax for the latter. No detail was given as to how the parties plan to cover the cost of their vote-winning flat tax policies.

It pledges to abolish the citizens’ income, Italy’s first ever unemployment benefit introduced under the populist Five Star Movement. It’s not clear whether anything would replace it.

The programme also calls for a revaluation of the minimum pension, social and disability payments.

As inflation soars, there’s a promise to protect the purchasing power of families, workers and pensions, and reduce VAT on energy products.

Europe and Russia

Salvini and Berlusconi have long been close to Russia. Berlusconi last week caused outrage by defending his old friend Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, while Salvini has been highly critical of European sanctions.

Despite this, the programme emphasises respect for commitments made as part of NATO and support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion.

READ ALSO: Outcry in Italy after Berlusconi defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (2nd L) visit the Bakhchisaray Historical and Cultural Preserve in Bakhchisaray outside Sevastopol, Crimea on September 12, 2015

Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi is a long-time friend of Putin’s and has recently defended the Russian president’s invasion of Ukraine. Photo by Alexei DRUZHININ / Ria NOVOSTI / AFP

Meloni has backed the sanctions, and the sending of weapons to Kyiv – though in 2014 she voiced her support for Russia’s annexation of Crimea, so it’s not clear how credible her stance is or if it could change.

With Meloni and Salvini’s parties both eurosceptic, the programme commits to “full adherence to the European integration process” while seeking a “more political and less bureaucratic” bloc.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Is Brothers of Italy a ‘far right’ party?

It also calls for a review of EU rules on public spending and economic governance.

In line with FdI’s nativist stance, it calls for the defence and promotion of Europe’s “Judeo-Christian” roots.

Immigration

Meloni and her coalition partner Salvini both rail against what they call a migrant “invasion”, with Meloni repeatedly calling for “naval blockades” to stop arrivals by sea.

The coalition pledges to create EU-managed centres in northern African countries to evaluate asylum applications.

Lega leader Matteo Salvini delivers a speech on stage on September 22, 2022 during a joint rally of Italy's right-wing parties Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d'Italia, FdI), the League (Lega) and Forza Italia at Piazza del Popolo in Rome, ahead of the September 25 general election.

Matteo Salvini, leader of the anti-immigration League, has always put the ‘Italians first’ motto at the centre of his party’s programme. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

When previously interior minister in 2019 Salvini brought in a controversial ‘security decree’ which has since been scaled back. But it appears that it will be reintroduced with him back in government, as the manifesto section on immigration is topped by a bullet point that simply reads “security decrees”.

READ ALSO: ‘I plan to leave’: Foreigners in Italy fear for their futures if far right wins election

Other somewhat vague objectives include “combating irregular immigration and the orderly management of legal flows of immigration” and “promoting the inclusion of legal immigrants socially and in the workforce.”

Institutions

The coalition wants to change the constitution to ensure election by universal suffrage of the president, Italy’s head of state who is currently chosen by parliament.

While it looks like the coalition will not take the ‘super majority’ needed in parliament to push through such changes without a referendum, it could hold a vote on the issue.

READ ALSO: Italian elections: What’s the difference between a majority and ‘super majority’?

The programme also includes a reference to move towards more regional autonomy, which remains a key issue for Salvini’s League (formerly the Northern League).

It also calls for reform of the justice system to ensure the “reasonable duration” of trials – though judicial reform is already underway as part of the changes required by Brussels as part of the recovery fund deal.

Families

Italy has a declining population and the coalition vows to support the birth rate with measures including free nurseries. 

It also calls for employment protection for young mothers, an increase in welfare payments for families, and support for families with disabled dependents.

Crime

The coalition promises, without going into detail, to crack down hard on petty crime, violence against women and the sale and diffusion of illegal drugs.

It also pledges to fight Italy’s mafias, as well as undefined “terrorism”, though it doesn’t explain how.

Energy and environment

It’s notable that the coalition only mentions energy policy at the end of its programme, and again in very vague terms.

A picture shows the control room of the Garigliano Nuclear Power Plant located at the outskirts of Sessa Aurunca, 160km southern Rome, on October 17, 2017.

Italy rejected nuclear power after the Chernobyl accident but a return to nuclear energy is now in the cards. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Energy and environmental issues have been almost entirely absent from the election campaign, despite Italy’s reliance on Russian gas being increasingly untenable due to the Ukraine war, and the increasing frequency of climate-related disasters such as the recent deadly flooding in Marche.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How much are energy bills rising in Italy?

The programme proposes Italy should begin producing “clean and safe nuclear energy”, without giving any explanation as to what this might look like.

Despite the fact that the Italian public rejected nuclear power twice, in 1987 and 2011, the League in particular appears to want to give it another shot.

The coalition also pledges to increase the production of renewable energy.

They say only that they will diversify energy supplies and implement a plan for energy-self sufficiency, including using Italy’s national resources, such as natural gas.

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