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Italy after the Elections - Implications for National and European Politics

By Maria Paula Angel Benavides

On September 25, Italy held parliamentary elections. After some tough negotiations, Giorgia Meloni was named prime minister. The head of Fratelli d'Italia is the first female in the country to occupy this important position. 

The successor of Mario Draghi and her new cabinet team already sworn in and are ready to work. From October 23, Italy has the most right-wing government it has seen since World War II. All eyes are on the Italian Republic: the victory of a post-fascist party might have an impact on how the continent's other liberal democracies develop.

To talk about this and more, Sergio Fabbrini (Dean of the Political Science Department, Director of the Master in International Public Affairs and Professor of Political Science and International Relations at LUISS Guido Carli), Nausica Palazzo (Assistant Professor in Constitutional Law at NOVA School of Law in Lisbon) and Nadia Urbinati (Kyriakos Tsakopoulos Professor of Political Theory at Columbia University) met with our Co-Director, Laszlo Bruszt who delivered welcoming remarks, and the Managing Editor of our Review of Democracy, Michal Matlak, who moderated the discussion.

According to Fabbrini, in the last period Italian political leaders have had many ups and downs. This situation has led to a discontinuous transformation of the political sphere. From his point of view, it is difficult to say why that happened, but he guesses it has to do with the existing political parties, the personal organization they have, and some aspects related to the electorate.

Regarding Meloni, he says, she shows a contradictory behavior. She doesn’t align with many of the things she praises. For instance, she defends the value of the family, but she has a daughter despite not being married. And about her election he thinks

“it is unrealistic to think we are facing a significant cultural change, it is more a transition from the old establishment political parties coming out from the Second World War,"

adding that "we are not yet in political equilibrium", and signaling the several existing cleavages (left and right, pro-euro against- euro) that led to what he calls a “permanent turmoil."

Following the above, Palazzo notes that the results of the elections do not mean a radical cultural shift, but rather show “a constituency, an electorate, that is looking for an identity and is moving around Lega, Movimento 5 Stelle and Fratelli d'Italia.” They have a specific profile, “mostly people in economic hardship,” so

“it was somehow inevitable to have this reactional situation.”

On the other hand, Urbinati claims that, since politics are more a question of personality or publicity than a question of ideological alignments or cleavages that are connected to parties’ structure, an element that becomes relevant is the country’s socio-ethical culture. In this sense, since there is no strong ideological difference between how these preferences are structured for Meloni versus another person, issues related to gender, way of living or traditions became important.

For the scholar, this is the cultural basis that unifies Italy. So, the problems related to having women in politics or within corporations at a high level are part of the country's tradition. There is no denying that some modern approaches have been taken on some issues, but

traditionalism still prevails and is part of the political propaganda.

From her perspective, Meloni and Salvini use these elements, without being very specific, in the same way they use the anti-immigration ideas and so on.

Palazzo agrees that there is a strong symbolic emphasis on the traditional family. She states that “family” is Meloni's number one priority (even above anti-immigration or the National Resilience Recovery Plan) but adds that there is a moderate approach in her program. She has emphasized the “natural family” as the fundamental unit of society but has also said that she is not abolishing same sex civil unions and is fighting against discrimination based on sexual and sentimental choice.

The conditions that made it possible for a figure like Meloni to become Prime Minister of Italy are certainly intriguing. There are many factors to consider and weigh when analyzing the issue. Although the professors share some common points in their approach, they have some differences that are worth reviewing.

In any case, what is most important now is to see what happens to the Italian Republic and the rest of Europe after Meloni’s rise to power. Without any doubt, her words, decisions and actions will have an impact beyond the borders of her country. Time will confirm or deny if the fears were justified and if the forecasts were correct. For now, the outlook does not look good. Will Italy revive the old days as it indulges in illiberal revolt?

Watch the discussion:

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