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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

EXPLAINED: Five ways Italy’s 2022 elections will be different

Italy's 2022 elections are just over a week away, but there are a few reasons why they won't be like any vote Italy has held before.

EXPLAINED: Five ways Italy’s 2022 elections will be different
Campaign posters for Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d'Italia) at Rome’s Termini train station. Italy is getting ready to go to the polls on September 25th. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Italy’s upcoming vote is unusual in all sorts of ways, not least in that the country has never before held an election campaign during the summer.

Added to recent electoral reforms and the current political climate, this will be an election with a difference (or five), and no doubt with major historical importance.

Here’s a quick look at some of the most noteworthy things we’ll likely see at, or after, the coming election.

The right-wing alliance is expected to win by a landslide

While it’s hard, if not impossible, to forecast election results with complete certainty, it’s fair to say the outcome in this case looks like a foregone conclusion.

Italy’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party and its right-wing coalition partners have been consistently polling way ahead of other parties since the early election was called.

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

The right-wing alliance still held a significant lead of almost 20 points as the last opinion poll results came in on Friday, before polling was paused for the two weeks ahead of the election.

The 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 some 46 percent of the vote.

Brothers of Italy was previously unheard of, and polled at four percent in the last election in 2018 – but has taken a lot of support from the League.

Meanwhile the left-wing alliance, led by the Democratic Party (PD), looks set to take around 28 percent of the vote, while the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) could take 13 percent, according to the last YouTrend poll before the pre-voting embargo began.

In a startling move, the leader of the PD has already admitted defeat, even though analysts say a large number of undecided voters means there is still “some margin” for surprise.

Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia party is leading opinion polls ahead of Italy’s general election on September 25, 2022. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

Italy could have its first female – and post-fascist – prime minister

With the right-wing alliance set for an easy victory, as the leader of the party set to take the largest share of the vote overall Giorgia Meloni would be in line to take the top job, becoming Italy’s first-ever female prime minister.

She would also be the first prime minister from a post-fascist political party – and the resulting government is likely to be the first far-right administration in postwar Italy.

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

Born in Rome, 45-year-old Meloni has had a long political career, starting out as a teenage activist with the youth wing of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), formed by supporters of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini after World War II.

Her Brothers of Italy party grew out of this post-fascist movement, but Meloni has sought to distance it, and herself, from this history – while refusing to renounce it entirely.

The new government may be able to rewrite the constitution

At this point, the question people in Italy are asking is not whether the right will win the election, but by how much.

Polls show it has a good chance of not just winning, but winning with an unprecedented ‘super majority’ – which could give a resulting government a mandate to change the Italian Constitution without consulting the public via a referendum.

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

With other political forces divided, the right-wing alliance is close to achieving the necessary two-thirds majority in both the Lower House and the Senate.

The right is 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.

Younger people have more voting rights this time

Italy’s political leaders’ sudden interest in the teen favourite social media platform TikTok during this election campaign may have something to do with the fact that they increasingly need the support of younger people – even in a country like Italy, with an overwhelmingly older population on average.

Up until last year, not all Italian adults could fully participate in the country’s elections as voters needed to be over the age of 25 to vote for senators.

This changed with a reform passed by parliament in July 2021, which means that an additional 3.8 million voters aged between 18 and 25 will be able to vote for their representatives in both the lower house and the senate in the upcoming election.

Plus, there are lots of undecided or uninterested voters in this age group: only 48 percent of voters under the age of 35 are planning to turn up at the polling station on September 25th, according to polls.

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

There are fewer seats available in parliament

One thing that makes it harder to predict the outcome of the election this time is that the makeup of both houses of parliament has changed, and so has the way lawmakers are elected.

Constitutional reforms approved in a 2020 referendum cut the number of senators to 200 from 315, and deputies (MPs) to 400 from 630. As a result, constituencies have been remapped and enlarged.

The reforms also mean seats are allocated via a combination of proportional representation (PR) and first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral systems.

This means that about 37 percent of seats will this time go to the candidates that win the most support in constituencies, while the rest will be allocated in proportion to the number of votes they receive at the national level. 

This system encourages parties to form coalitions – a very common feature of Italian election campaigns, as well as resulting governments – because that increases their chances of winning the first-past-the-post seats.

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

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Far right set to take power in Italy after topping vote, exit polls show

Far-right leader Giorgia Meloni came top in Italian elections on Sunday, exit polls suggested, putting her eurosceptic populists on course to take power at the heart of Europe.

Far right set to take power in Italy after topping vote, exit polls show

Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which has neo-fascist roots, has never held office but looks set to form Italy’s most far-right government since the fall of dictator Benito Mussolini during World War II.

Exit polls published by the Rai public broadcaster and Quorum/YouTrend both put Brothers of Italy on top, at between 22 and 26 percent of the vote.

BLOG: Italian election exit polls suggest victory for Giorgia Meloni

Her allies, Matteo Salvini’s far-right League and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, lagged behind but between them appear to have enough seats to secure a majority in both houses of parliament.

The result must still be confirmed but risks fresh trouble for the European Union, just weeks after the far-right outperformed in elections in Sweden.

Meloni, who campaigned on a motto of “God, country and family”, has abandoned her calls for one of Europe’s biggest economies to leave the eurozone, but says Rome must assert its interests more in Brussels.

“Today you can participate in writing history,” the 45-year-old tweeted before the polls closed.

Turnout was lower than in the 2018 elections.

Meloni had been leading opinion polls since Prime Minister Mario Draghi called snap elections in July following the collapse of his national unity government.

Hers was the only party not to join Draghi’s coalition when, in February 2021, the former European Central Bank chief was parachuted in to lead a country still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

READ ALSO: Political cheat sheet: Understanding the Brothers of Italy

For many voters, Meloni was “the novelty, the only leader the Italians have not yet tried”, Wolfango Piccoli of the Teneo consultancy told AFP before the election.

But the self-declared “Christian mother” – whose experience of government has been limited to a stint as a minister in Berlusconi’s 2008 government – has huge challenges ahead.

Like much of Europe, Italy is suffering rampant inflation while an energy crisis looms this winter, linked to the conflict in Ukraine.

The Italian economy, the third largest in the eurozone, is also saddled with a debt worth 150 percent of gross domestic product.

‘Limited room for manoeuvre’

Brothers of Italy has roots in the post-fascist movement founded by supporters of Benito Mussolini, and Meloni herself praised the dictator when she was young.

She has sought to distance herself from the past as she built up her party into a political force, going from just four percent of the vote in 2018 to Sunday’s triumph.

Her coalition campaigned on a platform of low taxes, an end to mass immigration, Catholic family values and an assertion of Italy’s nationalist interests abroad.

They want to renegotiate the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund, arguing that the almost 200 billion euros Italy is set to receive should take into account the energy crisis.

But “Italy cannot afford to be deprived of these sums”, political sociologist Marc Lazar told AFP, which means Meloni actually has “very limited room for manoeuvre”.

The funds are tied to a series of reforms only just begun by Draghi.

 Ukraine support

Despite her euroscepticism, Meloni strongly supports the EU’s sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, although her allies are another matter.

Berlusconi, the billionaire former premier who has long been friends with Vladimir Putin, faced an outcry this week after suggesting the Russian president was “pushed” into war by his entourage.

It is only one area in which Meloni and her allies do not see eye to eye, leading some analysts to predict that their coalition may not last long.

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

Italian politics is historically unstable, with almost 70 governments since 1946.

A straight-speaking Roman raised by a single mother in a working-class neighbourhood, Meloni rails against what she calls “LGBT lobbies”, “woke ideology” and “the violence of Islam”.

She has vowed to stop the tens of thousands of migrants who arrive on Italy’s shores each year, a position she shares with Salvini, who is currently on trial for blocking charity rescue ships when he was interior minister in 2019.

The centre-left Democratic Party claimed her government would pose a serious risk to hard-won rights such as abortion and will ignore global warming, despite Italy being on the front line of the climate emergency.

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