Why Giorgia Meloni’s rise is anything but the status quo for Italy

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This is not the first time that Meloni and his party have disseminated such ideas. In 2019, an electoral manifesto of the Brothers of Italy described George Soros as “usurer”. Yet, far from criticizing the book, the only controversy arose when a bookseller said she would not sell it. She received death threats and was quickly placed under police protection.

Worrisome trends

The increase in Meloni’s popularity is hardly surprising in a country whose mainstream discourse has gradually shifted to the right. We can see this shift in many areas of daily life, from mainstream media to threats to reproductive rights and LGBTQ +. Words like “siege”, “invasion” and “aggression” in media discussions about immigration. Corriere della Sera, Italy’s most widely read newspaper, recently asked why Italy is not so good at reject unauthorized migrants as Spain had been during its recent confrontation with Morocco.

When it comes to setting the agenda, leftist subjects are sidelined or struggle to find reasonable coverage. Last year’s global Black Lives Matter protests were attacked by right-wing journalists, while the Italian protests were barely covered.

In this scenario, Meloni has two advantages over Salvini. Under Salvini’s leadership, the Lega Nord – once a secessionist movement in northern Italy – renamed itself the Nationalist Party. Its history of anti-south rhetoric means it has always struggled to gain a foothold in the south, as we saw in the last election.

Salvini also saw his reputation slowly decline after his first term in government ended when he brought down the coalition with Giuseppe Conte of the Five Star Movement in 2019. Salvini never quite recovered from his failure. to call an election and seize the highest office: if there is one thing that political “strong men” cannot forgive, it is wavering.

Meloni’s party also benefits from avoiding government compromises. Their anti-establishment rhetoric is less tainted than that of Salvini – not least because the strongly Eurosceptic Lega Nord is now in coalition with Draghi, the former president of the European Central Bank.

The nationalist international

Meloni is already putting himself in the company of European authoritarian populists. After all, the Brothers of Italy recently received a letter of approval from Hungarian President Viktor Orbán himself, whom Meloni met in Brussels last month, along with other nationalist leaders, such as Janez Janša of Slovenia and Mateusz. Morawiecki from Poland. Even before that, conferences like the National Conservatism Conference mapped out the stages of this transition and the joining of new political networks.

Last week, the Brothers of Italy signed a declaration with other far-right European parties (Lega from Italy, Vox from Spain, Fidesz from Hungary, Law and Justice from Poland among them) to launch an alliance Politics. While it is not clear how the parties will shape an effective political platform, they provide a clear cultural direction based on the central idea of ​​the European Union as a traditional family-centered ‘superstate’ and against “mass immigration”.

Thinking of what Italy would look like as an “illiberal democracy”, where rights are a privilege reserved for certain categories of citizens, does not require any major effort. It would suffice to continue on the path that the country is already following.

In this scenario, immigrants and asylum seekers will likely suffer the most. After all, the party supposedly fighting for their rights, the center-left Democratic Party, is the one that in 2017 launched a crackdown on NGOs that rescue migrants at sea. It was an attack on which the far right has then capitalized.

Meloni, both in his book and in his party manifesto, envisions an immigration system that favors foreigners from countries which manage to “integrate better”, that is to say immigrants of origin. Christian. Integration, for post-fascists, is more of an ethnic quality than a political process.

When talking about immigration, Meloni also refers to non-Christians already in the country, regardless of their citizenship status. In particular, Muslims are often targeted. In 2019, the Pew Research Center found that 55% of Italians had negative feelings towards Muslims.

Meloni’s proposals also include strong opposition to the promotion of LGBTQ + rights, under the guise of protecting freedom of expression. The current public debate in Italy is dominated by “DDL Zan”, a bill proposed by MP Alessandro Zan. The bill is designed to combat discrimination and violence based on sex, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability. Although a similar bill was first proposed 24 years ago, the law has faced stiff opposition where the far right, so-called ‘gender-critical’ feminism, and ultimately the Vatican, united under the same banner.



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