Giorgia Meloni, whose far-right Fratelli d’Italia party triumphed in the legislative elections, succeeded in channeling both the aspirations of conservative voters and resentment towards the government of Mario Draghi, without completely denying the neo-fascist roots of his movement. After depositing his ballot in the ballot box on Sunday, September 25, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi stopped for a few moments to chat with supporters. Never stingy with a bluster, he described himself to his audience as the only political leader in Italy to have worked for a living. Asked about the astonishing rise of Giorgia Meloni, and whether he thought it necessary worrying about it, he answered with a serious face: “Yes, she is a bit scary”. ballot imposed on Italy after the untimely fall of its most respected Prime Minister in decades, Mario Draghi. The results of Sunday’s vote should mark a momentous change for Italy, bringing the first woman to power while offering control of the country to the most retrograde coalition since World War II – a baroque alliance of populists, eurosceptics and far-right nationalists imbued with a revenge ideology. The Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy ) of G iorgia Meloni have established themselves as the central pillar of this alliance, with a quarter of the vote and easily surpassing the combined score of its two allies, the Anti-Immigrant League of Matteo Salvini and Forza Italia of Silvio Berlusconi, both capping at less than 9%. Between them, these three parties are on the way to obtaining a majority in the two chambers of Parliament, thanks to an electoral law that all political forces agree to describe as “imposture”, but which they are shown unable to modify “The Italians have chosen us”, trumpeted, after the vote, a triumphant Giorgia Meloni in front of her supporters, while her coalition failed to reach the 50% mark, due to a record abstention rate. A fact that she obviously refrained from recalling. Silvio Berlusconi, meanwhile, promised to be the “playmaker” of the coalition, returning to the Senate ten years after being expelled from Parliament and banned from civil service for tax evasion. Aged 85, he was re-elected in Monza, in Lombardy (north), under the label of his Forza Italia party. Meloni “cannibalized his right-wing allies” The decline of the former Prime Minister – who has turned Italian politics upside down three decades ago and ushered in the era of populism – is behind the rise of Giorgia Meloni. Silvio Berlusconi’s absolutist rule over his party never allowed the emergence of a successor, not even when he was serving his community service sentence in an old people’s home. His gradual disappearance has left a vacuum on the right, into which Giorgia Meloni successfully engulfed himself. explains Maurizio Cotta, professor of political science at the University of Siena. Salvini occupied part of this space for a while, now it is Meloni’s turn. “The far-right leader has benefited from the weakness and from the blunders of her right-wing allies, stealing the support of Matteo Salvini, once popular and whose rating has plummeted since a failed takeover in 2019. Notably, she achieved this without having a personal political line. Giorgia Meloni endorsed the League leader’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and Silvio Berlusconi’s tax reduction mantra, while promising fiscal discipline in a nod to employers alarmed by Mario Draghi’s ousting. As Italian households and businesses face sky-high energy costs as winter approaches, she has strongly opposed Matteo Salvini’s drive to inflate Italy’s already huge debt to fund the energy bill relief measures. “She emerged as a more insightful and credible politician than Salvini, offering responsible opposition and maintaining cordial relations with Draghi,” Maurizio Cotta points out. “Meloni effectively cannibalized her allies of the right”, indicates for his part, in an editorial, Massimo Giannini, editor-in-chief of La Stampa, noting that the far-right leader has managed to channel both the hopes of the right-wing readers and the resentment of those who were hostile to the outgoing government. In a country accustomed to sanctioning outgoing parties, Giorgia Meloni enjoyed a decisive advantage over all the other parties. Her decision not to be part of Mario Draghi’s national unity coalition made her the only opposition force, and therefore a natural recipient of the sanction vote in Italy. This allowed her to “capitalize on the resentment of part of the population with regard to Draghi’s government – a competent and efficient administration which also appeared austere and technocratic”, explains Maurizio Cotta. After a decade of turbulence, Giorgia Meloni’s promise to return power to the Italian people echoed voters weary of coalition reshuffles and crisis cabinets led by unelected technocrats. At campaign rallies across the country, voters who had backed Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini highlighted his “consistency” and “firmness” in his refusal to enter into “unnatural alliances” with the left. According to Maurizio Cotta, Giorgia Meloni will now have to prove that she can compromise with her very particular partners on the right – even if she will have to do so from a position of strength. “The new balance of forces is extremely clear, believes – He. Meloni’s once-dominant partners may still be licking their wounds after becoming junior partners, but they have nowhere to go. Their only path to government is behind Meloni.”Anti-Fascist Culture Italian in declineGiorgia Meloni’s only experience in a law firm dates back 14 years, when Silvio Berlusconi brought her out of anonymity by entrusting her with the portfolio of Youth in the last of his s four governments. A far-right activist since the age of 15, Giorgia Meloni created her own party in 2012 with other former members of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), a neo-fascist formation founded after the war by partisans of dictator Benito Mussolini. She named her movement after the first lines of the Italian national anthem: Fratelli d’Italia. Supporters of Giorgia Meloni wave flags bearing the image of the Fratelli d’Italia party, in Milan, on Sunday September 11, 2022. © Benjamin Dodman, FRANCE 24 Since then, she has gradually managed to raise her party, without ever repudiating its roots completely. In particular, she rejected calls to remove the tricolor flame, which was an emblem of the MSI, from her party logo. strong personality. She describes herself as conservative, although much of the foreign press characterizes her as far-right. She says she defends patriotism and traditional family values, while criticizing political correctness and globalized elites. In a fiery speech in support of Spain’s far-right Vox party in June, she railed against “Islamic violence”, “gender ideology” and the “LGBT lobby”. softened during the election campaign, undermining attempts by her opponents to portray her as a threat to democracy, the rule of law and Italy’s position in the European Union. At the end of August , she recorded a video message in three languages to assure Italy’s partners that she would stick to Rome’s traditional alliances, including NATO. She also called “absurd” claims that she would lead an authoritarian government like her Hungarian ally Viktor Orban.”The Italian right relegated fascism to history by condemning in no uncertain terms the stripping of democracy and the infamous laws anti-Jews,” she said in the message sent to foreign media in English, French and Spanish. However, at her campaign rallies, she also cultivated a certain ambiguity that always accompanies her vengeful party, promising to vindicate those “who had to bow their heads for many years, claiming they had different ideas. so as not to be ostracized.” While Giorgia Meloni was making headway in the polls, her opponents on the left proved unable to unite, even in the face of the prospect of the most right-wing government since Mussolini. While on the other side of the Alps, French voters have repeatedly mobilized to prevent the far right from gaining power, no such front has materialized in Italy – partly because few Italians classify Giorgia Meloni as “extreme right”. In this regard, Sunday’s election demonstrated that the fight against fascism that has accompanied the Italian Republic since the post-war period was in retreat, wrote Ezio Mauro on Monday , former editor of La Repubblica. “With this vote, an indifferent country seems to have amnestied the legacy of fascism,” he lamented, pointing to the “repertoire of memories and symbols” that Fratelli d’Italia has “kept alive as a sentimental landscape of reference”.This article has been adapted from French. The original can be found here.