Could Giorgia Meloni be Italy’s first female Prime Minister? – POLITICO
ROME – Despite appearances, there is nothing fraternal in the relationship of the leader of the Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, with her main rival on the far right.
“Together, we will soon give Italy the government it deserves, no matter who tries to divide us,” she said. tweeted to Matteo Salvini, leader of the League party, last weekend. He had previously wished her a Happy Mother’s Day.
The public display of friendship masked a fierce struggle between Meloni and Salvini for right-wing supremacy that has intensified since the League joined Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government of national unity in February, leaving the Brothers to Italy practically alone in the opposition.
The party now votes at around 18%, less than four points behind the League, making Meloni a credible challenger to Salvini’s leadership of the right-wing coalition, which also includes the party of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
The leader of the best-performing party in the bloc will likely be prime minister if the alliance wins the next general election, scheduled for June 2023 at the latest. Opinion polls suggest the bloc is on track to do just that and if Meloni’s party wins, she could become Italy’s first female prime minister.
Brothers of Italy, which takes its name from the national anthem, has grown steeply since late 2019 and, spurred by its leading opposition role, has reached heights previously unimaginable for a post-fascist fringe party that does not took that 4%. of the vote in 2018.
Its gains come mainly at the expense of the League, which has been on the decline since it won 34% of the vote in the Italian elections to the European Parliament in 2019.
Meloni now represents “a realistic threat” to Salvini’s leadership of the right-wing alliance, said Daniele Albertazzi, a researcher in European politics at the University of Birmingham. “She’s in a great place.”
The secret of its success? While the League has tarnished its mark of insurgency by governing in coalition, first with the populist 5Star movement in 2018, and now in a government of national unity, the Brothers of Italy are seen by many voters as more coherent and ideologically pure.
If the party has its roots in the Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI) formed by Mussolini’s allies after 1945, these origins are not necessarily an obstacle to power. The heirs of fascism are seen as less extreme in Italy than abroad and have now been part of the mainstream as junior partners in right-wing governments since the 1990s.
Being in the only opposition has many advantages. Since February, he has allowed the party to act as a magnet for all those who disagree with the government. The opposition is also given control over major parliamentary committees such as control of state-controlled television and intelligence services.
The opposition is also entitled to a third of the time devoted to policy on state-controlled media, which means significantly increased visibility.
The party insists its decision to stay out of government was not a political ploy.
Meloni, who declined to be interviewed for this article, said in written comments to POLITICO that its aim was to be “a patriotic opposition … evaluating the government’s proposals without bias and pushing for intervention on them. priorities “which include work, taxes, the pandemic and managing migration.
“We are not in the opposition for political advantage but by conviction,” said Federico Mollicone, who is a party senator. “If a third of Italians are strongly in favor of Draghi, we give a voice to the majority of Italians who have concerns.”
Mollicone asserted that the Brothers of Italy were in opposition to help their allies in the government, by “pursuing shared battles”.
But the role of the Brothers of Italy in opposition has been anything but useful to the League, forcing Salvini in the awkward position of trying to keep one foot in the government camp and another in the opposition.
The League ended up abstaining in Cabinet on measures previously agreed upon within the ruling coalition and launched a petition against the government curfew.
Since the start of the new government, tensions between Meloni and Salvini have remained high. Salvini refused to relinquish control of the intelligence committee in parliament. Meloni attempted to divide the government, leading to votes to lift the 10 p.m. curfew and a motion of censure to Health Secretary Roberto Speranza.
As the summer migrant boat season begins in earnest, Salvini’s ability to reconcile his role in government with his populist instincts will be put to the test. When Meloni responded to an increase in migrant boat arrivals last weekend by calling for an immediate naval blockade, Salvini could not help but request a meeting with Draghi.
Meanwhile, Meloni appears to be making bigger inroads from the far-right fringe to the center. A new autobiography, Io sono Giorgia, a reference to her landmark 2019 identity politics discourse that was turned into a viral pop hit, appears to be part of a makeover to soften her image and appeal to a female constituency, opening up to her difficult childhood fatherless and fertility difficulties.
For some analysts, the conflict within the right-wing alliance is just a political theater that will melt before the elections. Albertazzi, the researcher, noted that the parties have a long history of collaboration. “They have governed together for 25 years,” he said.
An early test of whether they can meet again is looming – they must choose common candidates for local elections in major cities in the fall, especially Rome.
The most convenient thing for her allies would be for Meloni herself to stand. But she has rejected begs to run for mayor of Rome in an attempt to sideline her and prevent her from focusing on the race that matters, the national race.
For now, the League is still leading in the polls but, on the current trajectory, it could be overtaken by the Brothers of Italy by the end of the year.
If Meloni’s party leads not only in the polls but also in the next general election, Salvini will be under pressure to stick to a deal within the alliance and let her take the top job. “In this case, it’s hard to see how anyone can prevent him from becoming prime minister,” Albertazzi said.