Italy's Elections might Put in Power the most Right-Wing Government since World War II
Sunday's parliamentary election could make history by giving Italy its first female prime minister at the head of the most far-right government since World War II.
In 2018, Giorgia Meloni's nationalist Brothers of Italy (FDI) party only got 4% of the vote, but this time the party is expected to take around 25% and lead the alliance of conservative partners to a clear parliamentary majority.
"In Italy, there's this idea that we've tried everyone else, so let's try this now," said Wolfango Piccoli, co-chairman of political risk consultancy Teneo.
If Meloni wins, she will face a barrage of problems: rising energy costs, a suffocating debt, a possible recession and an increasingly dangerous conflict in Ukraine.
Incumbent Prime Minister Mario Draghi was seen as a reassuring figure by international investors but resigned in July after a rebellion in the government of national unity.
Unlike all other major party leaders, Meloni refused to join Draghi's coalition. She remained in opposition and her popularity grew as she criticized every misstep of the government.
"Meloni is a great communicator, but she faces significant economic constraints and doesn't have a lot of experience, so she probably won't enjoy a long political honeymoon," says Piccoli.
The battle is not decided
It is possible that Meloni will get a much smaller majority than analysts predicted, or even not enough votes. This opened the way for the political instability that regularly plagues Italy.
Ten days ago, the right-wing bloc, which includes Matteo Salvini's “Lega” and Silvio Berlusconi’s “Forza Italia party”, was expected to get around 45% of the vote - a result that should give them more than 60% of all seats in the parliament.
But speculation has been rife since then that Salvini's “Lega”, under constant attack for its historically close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has fallen behind while the left-wing “Five Star Movement” has risen.
Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that voters will vote for a reduced parliament, with the number of seats in the lower house of parliament reduced from 630 to 400 and the number of seats in the Senate reduced from 315 to 200. This complicates the effort to predict outcomes.
"One of the effects of the reduction in the number of seats in the Senate is that it takes relatively little in percentage terms to go from a huge majority to a very reduced majority," said Lorenzo Pregliasco, head of polling agency YouTrend.
The right-wing bloc reneged on old promises to cut taxes, lower the retirement age and prevent migrants from entering Italy by boat from North Africa. Meloni even proposed a naval blockade.
Opponents argue that such a step would be illegal and unenforceable.
The main center-left Democratic Party has repeatedly warned that electing Meloni is dangerous because of the FDI's neo-fascist background and its ties to Hungarian nationalist leader Viktor Orban.
Meloni plays down her own far-right past. She claims her group is similar to Britain's Conservative Party and strongly supports Ukraine in its war with Russia.
But on the campaign trail, she was careful not to alienate those core supporters who associate with the far right.
“I dream of a nation where people who for many years had to keep their heads down pretending to have different ideas to avoid being judged can now speak their minds,” she said at a rally earlier this week.
Voting will continue on Sunday from 07:00 a.m. to 23:00 p.m. (0500-2100 GMT) and the full results will be announced on Monday morning.
Even if there is a clear result, the next government is unlikely to take office before the end of October, as the new parliament will not meet until October 13.
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