Italy Returns to Political Normalcy
“Fratelli d’Italia” (Brothers of Italy) is the first line of the Italian national anthem. It is also the name of what is now Italy’s principal political party, having emerged victorious in the September 25 parliamentary elections under the leadership of Giorgia Meloni.
Meloni’s is one of four parties that formed the center-right coalition, which won 44 percent of the vote, with Fratelli alone getting 26 percent, compared with 19 percent for the Partito Democratico, which headed the losing center-left coalition. The other two victorious coalition partners (one party failed to get any seats) are the Lega, headed by Matteo Salvini, and Forza Italia, led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. (Both lost some support compared with prior elections, and these strong political personalities may be tamed a bit as coalition partners.)
While Italy now has its first female Prime Minister, the global political left is disappointed that the victory came “on the right” and not the left. (In fact, two well-known Italian women political figures of the hard left failed to be re-elected to long-held parliamentary seats. Among them is Emma Bonino, who lost her seat from a solid left district in Rome. Bonino was responsible for divorce and abortion legislation in the 1970s. Also defeated was Monica Cirinnà, known for being the author of Italy’s 2016 bill on civil unions.)
The global press—and Anglo-American media in particular—has been up in arms, maligning and mislabeling Meloni and her party, which chose its current name in 2012 after decades of evolving from its beginning as the Movimento Sociale Italiano (Italian Social Movement), a small party formed by a handful of nostalgic fascists after World War II. A similar evolution occurred on the left when the much larger Italian Communist Party lost its soviet sponsorship after the fall of the Berlin Wall (in 1989) and subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union, although the foreign press has largely overlooked that one.
When the “technocrat” government of outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi was formed in February 2021, only one party refused to join in: Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia. Draghi, highly regarded in Italy but especially abroad—he was a former Governor of the Bank of Italy and President of the European Central Bank—had been called on to form a government because a weak coalition was unable to get things done at a time of global pandemic and economic emergency. However, it was unelected. Italy has had similar governments before, but even when they are deemed needed, they don’t have the legitimacy of a democratically elected one.
Restoring a democratically elected government
It is worth stressing that the Italian electorate rewarded Fratelli d’Italia—the sole party to oppose the Draghi government—by voting it the largest party in the country. Indeed, its 26 percent total was a huge jump from the party’s 4-percent showing in the 2018 parliamentary elections.
While center-right and center-left has been common parlance for describing political divisions in Italy, the foreign press heaped pejorative epithets on the victorious party. Fratelli d’Italia was labeled fascist, neo-fascist, extremist, right wing, far right, hard right, radical, and more.
Sadly, even President Biden joined the chorus with one of his witless remarks: “Just look at Italy,” he said in a recent speech, using it as an example of how “democracy was at risk.” In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The Italian electorate favored the sole party in opposition while penalizing nearly every party that comprised the unelected Draghi government. Indeed, theirs was a very democratic choice.
The attacks also became personal. Meloni comes from a humble background. She grew up in one of Rome’s poorest neighborhoods, her father having abandoned the family when she was only one year old. A Spanish journalist splashed headlines with a story revealing that Meloni’s father, who left Rome and moved to the Canary Islands, was convicted on drug-dealing charges in 1995 and received a nine-year sentence. He is now deceased; Meloni had not seen him since 1988. When confronted with the news, she referred to the adage that the sins of the father are not to be visited on their offspring.
While lacking a university degree, Meloni has developed her own savoir faire and speaks four languages. She has been described as “inexperienced,” but she has been a member of Parliament (Chamber of Deputies) since 2006, served as Minister for Youth from 2008 to 2011, and today, at age 45, represents a new generation stepping up to top leadership (replacing 74-year-old Mario Draghi).
In her campaign speeches in Italy and abroad—including one she delivered in fluent English at the CPAC conference sponsored by the Republican Party in Florida last February—Meloni made it very clear what she stands for and what she is against. On the foreign policy front she is for NATO, the European Union, democracy—and she is pro-American. She supports European and American efforts in Ukraine and has condemned the Russian invasion.
Meloni identifies openly as Christian, Italian, a woman, and a mother. She is pro-family, explicitly against abortion, euthanasia, gender ideology, same-sex marriage, cancel culture and wokeism. A note about her personal life: While she is not married, she lives with a domestic partner, Andrea Giambruno, a TV journalist, and together they have a six-year-old daughter. After her grueling campaign and electoral victory, Meloni noted: “I would like to thank my family, Andrea, my daughter, my sister, my mother . . . all those who were there for me although I could not always be there for them.”
Meloni firmly opposes the anti-Christian social policies being promulgated by European bureaucrats in Brussels. She is pro-business, championing small and medium-sized companies, which are the backbone of the Italian economy and mainly responsible for the country’s trade surplus, the fourth largest in the European Union.
The challenges ahead
The new government was sworn in on October 22 and consists of 24 cabinet members including some holdovers. The Western Alliance should be reassured with the appointment of the well-respected Antonio Tajani as Foreign Minister, given that he spent nearly two decades as a deputy of the European Parliament (where he was elected President in January 2017). There is also a Minister for the Family, Natality, and Equal Opportunity, headed by long-time politician and pro-lifer Eugenia Roccella, who in 2013 formed a group to oppose maternal surrogacy.
The challenges facing the new government are enormous: massive debt, rampant inflation, weak economic growth, soaring energy prices amidst scarcity, pension reform, low birth rate, and a need to stem the flow of illegal migration across the Mediterranean as thousands arrive each month, mostly from Africa, on the shores of Italy’s poorest regions. As the new government is a coalition of three parties, all of them must work together, resolve potential conflicts, and fulfill their five-year term—something that has only happened once in the postwar period.
This article uses facts and figures to present the reality of what is transpiring politically in Italy, and to allay the fears generated by rampant media falsehood, hostility, and outright contempt for who will govern the country going forward. While the Italian national anthem inspired the country’s latest political developments, perhaps it is also worth noting the first line of the American national anthem: “Oh say, can you see?” Hopefully, readers here will see the truth about “Fratelli d’Italia” and Giorgia Meloni.
Excellent analysis. N