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In Italy, the Hardest part Begins for Giorgia Meloni

In Italy, the Hardest part Begins for Giorgia Meloni

The coalition of the right has won a clear victory in the Italian legislative elections. Despite this success, Giorgia Meloni will not have an easy task.

The Italian elections have produced very clear results. The right wing won and can count on a solid majority in the House (about 235 seats out of 400) and in the Senate (113 out of 200). Giorgia Meloni’s party Fratelli d’Italia dominates the coalition. Its weight has risen from 4 percent in 2018 to 26 percent, while Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Matteo Salvini’s Lega have fallen to 9 percent and 8 percent.

The largest left-wing party, the Partito democratico (PD), led by Enrico Letta, reached 19%, and the left as a whole garnered only 26% of the vote. The “5 Stelle” had a better result than expected (15%) and the “third pole” of Renzi and Calenda did not exceed 8%. The new party of Luigi di Maio (the former leader of the 5 Stelle) was crushed (0.6%).

Protest vote

There are lessons to be learned from this election. The first is that Italians do not trust politics. Many abstained from voting (about a third of voters), not because they preferred to spend the day on the beach in the sun, but because they are disappointed by the lack of economic growth, the ever-increasing public debt, a crushing bureaucracy and taxation, an inefficient judicial system, major security problems and confused electoral programs.

Giorgia Meloni owes her victory mainly to the fact that Fratelli d’Italia is the only party that has unhesitatingly opposed previous governments, including that of Mario Draghi. Those who appreciated Draghi’s work did not forgive the Lega and Forza Italia for abandoning him, while many left-wing moderates were disappointed by the electoral strategy of Enrico Letta (Partito democratico), which consisted only of countering the hypothetical fascist and totalitarian threat of the right – a threat that the vast majority of Italians consider to be infinitely less important than the loss of purchasing power.

Finally, those who criticized Mario Draghi for not even trying to solve the structural problems of the Italian economy have stayed home. In short, Fratelli d’Italia benefited from protest votes, and voters from the moderate left joined the abstentionist party.

A robust majority

Giorgia Meloni’s grip is solid. She has a strong parliamentary majority and the weight of her allies is relatively small. For example, in the House, Fratelli d’Italia will have about 118 seats, the League 65 and Forza Italia 45. The left-wing coalition will have only 79. Moreover, it is quite possible that Matteo Salvini will be attacked, that the Lega will split and that a significant number of its parliamentarians will join Fratelli – and that some from Forza Italia will do the same.

To be honest, it is not clear that their ideological vision is closer to Fratelli d’Italia than to the Partito democratico (the left). Yet the settling of accounts that will take place in the PD over the next few weeks will not attract many new members. Enrico Letta has already announced that he will resign (in March 2023), and if the new party elite chooses to ally itself with the 5 Stelle, the moderates will be further dispersed.

What will be the government line?

However, the road ahead for Giorgia Meloni will not be easy. For three reasons. First, the current Fratelli d’Italia leadership group is not perfect. It will not be easy to put together a government team of qualified individuals without being accused of pandering to technocracy, since most of the technocrats known to the general public have always been in the service of the left or of the coalitions that have supported previous governments.

Then there are the statements about international policy. The recent proclamations of Fratelli d’Italia were loud and clear: loyalty to NATO, support for Ukraine, no doubts about belonging to the European Union and the Eurozone in particular. In the past, Giorgia Meloni has been a little less determined. To her credit, she has a legitimate ambition to acquire or to be recognized as playing a more important role in the Western community, rather than to distance herself from it. As we know, in politics, ideology is flexible and the Fratelli are no exception to the rule.

The future economic course?

The most worrying aspects are related to economic management: either because Giorgia Meloni’s announcements have evolved with her political success, presumably to appeal to the moderate electorate, or because her statements in favor of cleaning up the public accounts run counter to her statist tendencies and her frequent references to speculation and international finance, as if the solution to the problems of il Bel Paese’s economy consisted in opposing the rules of the market.

She is, for example, cautious when she says that the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR) will add 120 billion euros to the public debt and that it should not be accepted without careful consideration. But she is less persuasive when she adds that the PNRR is useful for subsidizing targeted sectors or groups of individuals; when she promises to reduce the tax burden and, at the same time, increase spending on pensions and social security benefits; when she pledges to discourage the relocation of companies and to promote Italian exports with specialized state agencies.

All this gives the impression that Giorgia Meloni’s economic policy will have the same statist accent as the socialist left, which she opposes and against which she has built her political fortune. The future will soon tell whether her attitude is enough to persuade the authorities in Brussels and Frankfurt to support the current Italian public debt plus the one that the new star of Italian politics will create, if she remains faithful to the promises she has made.

Source: Le Point

Author

  • Enrico Colombatto

    Enrico Colombatto is a professor at the University of Turin (Italy) and Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the Institute for Economic and Fiscal Research (IREF).

The views expressed on austriancenter.com are not necessarily those of the Austrian Economics Center.

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