Italy’s far right set for easy victory under Giorgia Meloni

Giorgia Meloni looks unstoppable: with two weeks to the election, final polls show her heading for a landslide victory to lead postwar Italy's first far-right government as its first female prime minister.

Italy's far right set for easy victory under Giorgia Meloni
Leader of Italian far-right party Fratelli d'Italia Giorgia Meloni speaks in front of a photograph of PD party Leader Enrico Letta on Italian television. Photo: Alberto PIZZOLI/AFP

The right-wing coalition, which includes Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party, Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigrant League, and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, is forecast to pocket 46 percent of the vote.

The left, lead by the Democratic Party (PD), looks set to win 28.5 percent, while the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) could take 13 percent, according to a YouTrend poll before a pre-voting embargo.

ELECTIONS: Italy’s hard-right parties hold the lead in final opinion polls

In a startling move, PD head Enrico Letta admitted defeat this week, but urged undecided voters to choose his party or risk handing the right the landslide victory that would allow it to change the constitution.

“I’m going to vote for Meloni,” 55-year old lawyer Bernardo, who did not want to provide his surname, told AFP, saying he wanted “to teach the PD a lesson” for a negative campaign based on “hating others”.

‘God, country, family’

The snap election was called following Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s resignation in July after three parties in his coalition pulled support, plunging Italy into uncertainty as it faced inflation and a record drought.

The right-wing coalition has pledged extremely expensive solutions to the energy and cost of living crisis in the eurozone’s third biggest economy — without explaining how they will be paid for.

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

The EU has earmarked almost 200 billion euros in post-pandemic recovery funds for Italy, which has the second highest public debt in the euro zone.

Meloni, 45, who has cultivated a straight-talking, tough persona, said she would renegotiate that deal, which is contingent on Italy carrying out a series of reforms.

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 leftist alliance insists the money is at risk should the right win.

In 2018 elections, Brothers of Italy secured just over four percent of the vote, but is now polling at 24 percent despite being a political descendant of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), formed by supporters of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini after World War II.

EXPLAINED: Who’s who in Italy’s general election?

Meloni has wooed Italians with her motto of “God, country and family”, stealing support from once-popular Salvini, who analysts say sealed his own political fate by botching a power-grab in 2019

‘Still margin for surprise’

She has pledged to cut taxes and bureaucracy, raise defence spending, close Italy’s borders to protect the country from “Islamisation”, renegotiate European treaties to return more power to Rome, and fight “LGBT lobbies”.

A rightist victory would present a “big risk” to the EU, Letta said in August, as there had “never been a major European country governed by political forces so clearly against the idea of a community of Europe”.

The right suffers deep divisions over the Russian invasion, with Meloni supporting sending weapons to Ukraine, while Salvini — a longtime admirer of President Vladimir Putin — is against sanctions.

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

The left and centre want to carry on where pro-European Draghi will leave off. But this call for continuity is less persuasive to impoverished, anxious voters in debt-laden Italy than a pledge to change, analysts say.

There is “still a margin for surprise”, Italian political theorist Nadia Urbinati told the Domani newspaper Thursday, particularly considering about 20 percent of eligible voters are still undecided, polls show.

Find all the latest news on Italy’s election race here.

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Doubts rise over ‘loose cannon’ Salvini after Italy’s election

Italian anti-immigrant leader Matteo Salvini was disappointed on Monday at his party's result in general elections but pledged to work with Giorgia Meloni, who triumphed, to form a government.

Doubts rise over 'loose cannon' Salvini after Italy's election

Whether Salvini would keep his word – or survive politically long enough to do so – was not clear, after his anti-immigrant League party dropped below the 10 percent threshold at Sunday’s vote.

This was a sharp decrease after the party swept to office with 17 percent of the vote in 2018 – since when it has been eclipsed by Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy.

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

A glum Salvini, who has clashed with Meloni on a range of policies, not least her stance on Russia and the war in Ukraine, told reporters that winning just nine percent had been a blow.

It was “not a number I wanted or worked for”, he said.

Salvini added that he had “gone to bed fairly pissed off but woke up ready to go” and was now “looking on the bright side”.

Meloni “was good. We will work together for a long time”, he promised.

Leader of Italy's liberal-conservative party Forza Italia, Silvio Berlusconi, leader of Italy's conservative party Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni and leader of Italy's far-right League party, Matteo Salvini acknowledge supporters at the end of a joint rally against the government on October 19, 2019 in Rome.

Italy’s right-wing coalition, consisting of Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, Salvini’s League and Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, has promised to slash taxes and put ‘Italians first’. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

The League may now have to battle to ensure its priorities are not sidelined in Meloni’s government programme, analysts said.

And while ex-interior minister Salvini has repeatedly said he wants his former job back, it is looking increasingly unlikely to happen.

“It won’t be an easy relationship. It’s likely that (Salvini) will be given a more marginal role in the government than he wants,” Sofia Ventura, political sciences professor at Bologna University, told the foreign press association in Rome.

“The result… throws into question Matteo Salvini’s leadership” of his own party, she said, adding that there were those within the League who thought they would be better off without the “loose cannon”.

READ ALSO: Meloni, Salvini, Berlusconi: The key figures in Italy’s likely new government

He said Meloni had benefited from being the only leader to stay outside the coalition formed by Prime Minister Mario Draghi in February 2021.

For the League, being part of that administration “was not easy”, he said, but insisted “I would do it again.”

‘Dangerous when cornered’

Meloni secured around 26 percent of the vote in Sunday’s poll, putting her on course to become the first woman to serve as Italian prime minister.

She campaigned as part of a coalition including Salvini’s League and ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, which won around eight percent.

Italian politics is notoriously unstable, with nearly 70 governments since 1946, and there were concerns disagreements with Salvini may precipitate a fresh crisis.

Lorenzo Pregliasco, co-founder of the YouTrend polling site, said Italian party leaders proved “dangerous” when they felt cornered.

The League head “might not create any problems in the short term” but “watch out for the Salvini factor, if he survives politically as a leader”.

Salvini however said that after years of unwieldy coalitions, Italy finally had “a government chosen by its citizens, with a clear majority” in both houses of parliament.

And he hoped it could “go for at least five years straight, without changes, without upheavals, focusing on things to do”.