September 27, 2022

Opinion: Giorgia Meloni, the political charmer who repacked Italy’s far-right

5 min read

Editor’s note: Francisco Galletti is the founder of Policy SonarRome-based political risk consultancy. He has held senior positions with Italian public institutions, including the Ministry of Economy and Finance. Galletti is a columnist for the Italian current affairs magazine Panorama. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. Read on More feedback On CNN


I’m often asked what Giorgia Meloni – the leader of Italy’s national conservative Brotherhood party, and possibly the country’s next prime minister – is really going to do.

What comparisons should we look at? Hungary, Poland, Brazil and even the United Kingdom (not to mention the United States under Donald Trump) are all countries where the “right” or “right” has come to power at least in part on the back of nationalist sentiment. Captured.

But Meloni, 45, who is the favorite to become Italy’s youngest and first female prime minister in Sunday’s election, does not fit neatly into definitions. His climactic ascension is perhaps best described as a heroic balancing act.

On the one hand, Maloney has tried to shed his party’s post-fascist sheen, including its past. Political operators who were self-confessed fascists or felt nostalgic about Benito Mussolini. On the other hand, she is kissing capital markets goodbye by pledging to stick to the fiscal discipline and EU budget rules of outgoing prime minister and staunch Euro-Atlanticist Mario Draghi.

Despite his young age, Maloney has been in politics for a long time. In 2008, he received his baptism of fire, serving as youth minister under Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. His cabinet position at the time was relatively minor, but the consensus was that Maloney was being groomed for power.

At the time, I was a young adviser in the Italian Treasury, and I realized that there might have been more to Maloney. He seemed as if he had literally devoted his life to politics. It seemed so For him more than a vocation, a vocation, a calling. Because of this, he didn’t quite strike me as yet another supporter of a party leader trying his hand at government.

Years later, in 2021, Maloney’s autobiography came out. I rushed to buy a copy. In vivid detail, the book explains how painful Maloney’s youth was, and how important it was for him to become a party militant. Meloni’s father abandoned both her and her sister Ariana, and the right-wing Italian social movement filled the void. (He later helped found the political movement of the Brethren in Italy).

Learning about Maloney’s upbringing, I thought my earlier impressions were somewhat confirmed: the trauma of losing a father set Maloney on a mission to find a sense of purpose. Suddenly, Maloney looks like Bruce Wayne, who begins his journey to become Batman after his parents are murdered. And yet, Batman is a vigilante who sets out to rid the streets of Gotham City of its many villains, while Maloney has repeatedly toyed with the idea of ​​becoming mayor of his city, Rome, but in reality Never went for it.

In 2016, Maloney first threw his hat in the ring but ultimately dropped out of the mayoral race. In 2021, Maloney did not run again, instead supporting right-wing candidate Enrico Machetti, who lost to Roberto Guiltieri of the center-left Democratic Party. It is generally believed that if Maloney himself had entered the 2021 race, the right wing’s chances of success would have been much higher. So why didn’t she go for it? After all, Rome is unlike any other Italian municipality and enjoys global visibility like few other cities in the world. Did Maloney deliberately decide to “sacrifice” Rome to play the long game?

There is no doubt that Maloney’s rise in the polls reflects the widespread discontent and protest vote that we have seen in Italy since at least 2013. Indeed, this was already the case with anti-establishment parties such as the Five Star Movement and Matteo Salvini’s League. of recent years. In contrast, Maloney’s Brothers of Italy party has risen sharply in the polls, from single-digit levels. About 25 percent.

Maloney’s timing seems better than previous upstarts. In fact, Berlusconi, who will be 86 years old, if one considers the overall situation in Italy these days. Next week, not going to play in the sandbox for long. Moreover, Salvini’s limitations are clear and his “pivot to Russia” stance has made him politically radioactive, after the president Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. This means Maloney could dream not only of becoming Italy’s first female prime minister – but also of strengthening Italy’s conservative bloc.

Both tasks will likely require keeping moderates on board and bringing in new ones. How serious is Maloney about all this? Maloney is still actively using her nationalist, anti-Wake storytelling. Repository He also rallied to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán earlier this month, after the European Parliament voted to condemn “the existence of a clear threat of a serious breach” by Hungary of core EU values. gave

But Maloney isn’t afraid to normalize her party either, and could follow the example of her former boss and mentor Gianfranco Fini. In 2003, Finney chose to normalize his party’s relations with Israel and made a highly symbolic visit there. Arguably, in the past, this move was not well received by some of Fini’s supporters. And yet, it changed the perception of the party for good.

Maloney as usual today Describes Moscow’s attack as an “unacceptable act of full-scale war by Putin’s Russia against Ukraine”, and supports sending arms to the government in Kyiv. Indeed, with the wind in her sails, Maloney is delivering a message to a larger public, to attract potential voters and appease eventual critics. In fact, she knows that it is impossible for her party to run the country these days without a strong transatlantic stance. Moreover, Maloney appears to be in talks with the outgoing prime minister and the highly respected former president of the European Central Bank, even as we’ve already seen hints that Draghi has become Maloney’s own. . “Leadership Coach” and Guarantor.

Of course, as is often the case with Italian politicians who are asked for top jobs, Maloney is quite charming – so many believe they have an “exclusive” dialogue with him. Draghi-ites are confident that, given the chaos around Italy, they have Maloney’s ear, and that it will remain so for some time.

And yet, Steve Bannon, the global alt-right guru, regularly interacts with Maloney. In an effort to help Maloney tell his story, Bannon just created an unprecedented Italian franchise of his “War Room” show. Inevitably, this warrants the question: Who is the real Maloney? Is she the responsible leader of the party on the evolutionary path to transform Italy’s Brotherhood into a post-populist party, or Viktor Orbán’s friend in Rome? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, the biggest test of whether Meloni really wants to protect Draghi’s legacy will be the appointment of Italy’s next finance minister. Will she recommend one of Draghi’s old guard for the job? All eyes are on. Maloney.

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