On 25 September 2022, Italy held a snap election following the government crisis. The Brothers of Italy Party emerged as the single largest party with nearly a quarter of the popular vote. As head of a right-wing collation comes Giorgia Meloni. Meloni will be the most right-wing leader of Italy since Mussolini. She is a proponent of the White Replacement theory that says that the white population is disappearing and will be replaced by racial minorities, and to stop this, Italy must stop immigration and kick racial minorities out of the country.
The election comes after many years of political instability and populist politics. The rightward shift in Italian politics can be seen as a result of frustration with the crisis of the previous government. The crisis began on 14 June 2022, when Italy’s Five Star Movement refused to support a proposal of Italian President Mario Draghi regarding support for the cost of the living for Italians. The Five Star Movement, which supports a uniform basic income for all Italians insisted that the bill did not go far enough. This led to the dissolution of the Italian Parliament. The coalition government led by Mario Draghi lost critical support leading to the need for new elections. The Draghi-led coalition was an unstable coalition that tried to unite political parties of conflicting ideologies. Five Star itself recently went through a split in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Some members of the party felt that Italy should not be involved in conflicts regarding NATO or the EU, and opposed Draghi’s opposition to Russia.
Origins of this Government
In 2018, Italy had its most recent general election. No party was able to secure a majority. The largest party was the Five Star Party. The Five Star Party was founded by Italian comedian Beppe Grillo in 2009. He began expressing jokes and criticism against the rampant corruption of Italian politicians on his blog, which coalesced into a movement of people seeking to change the system. Grillo’s humour was profane, racist and misogynistic, but conveyed a feeling of being beyond ideology. Many people felt that he was telling the truth in a straightforward way. His followers liked his style of transcending euphemisms and political doublespeak. He did not have a clear ideology. Most of his followers would revolt against the elite classes, but they did not have many concrete political programs. Rather they were reactionaries. Most of them were suspicious of the European Union. The Five Star movement was a reactionary party that capitalized on the frustrations many Italians had with the Italian political elites. Italy had been plagued with many scandals, sexual, political and monetary. It is hard to classify Five Star as either left or right wing. They supported certain environmentalist policies. They supported a Universal Basic Income for all Italians. They opposed immigration and promoted xenophobia against the migrant population in Italy.
Initially, Five Star tried to enter into a coalition with the League, a far Right-Wing party to form the government. This coalition lasted a year when the League broke the coalition. Five Star then formed a coalition with the Democratic Party, a centre-left party, and the Free and Equal Party, a left-wing party. This coalition also lasted a year due to fighting within the Democratic Party.
The split came when the European Union provided a stimulus package to its member countries. Within the Democratic Party, there were two camps. One felt it should spend the package on infrastructure projects. The other felt it should be directed by an expert committee. The fight became politicized and polarizing leading to the collapse of the government.
Unable to form a stable coalition with either the left or right parties in the Parliament, it looked as if Five Star would not be able to form another government. However, with the pandemic raging on, it was not feasible to hold another election. Former Governor of Bank of Italy and the President of the European Central Bank, Draghi was seen as a neutral technocratic bureacrat. Unlike the Five Star party, which was seen as appealing to popular sentiments and was also directionless, Draghi believed in consulting expert opinion. He was known as a banker and an administrator. This was seen as an important step in managing Italy through the COVID-19 Pandemic. Draghi was thought to be able to take hard but needed decisions, and was good at implementing policies. Italy was one of the first countries to have experienced the full weight of the pandemic the year before.
Big businesses welcomed Draghi as he was close to them as a banker. They worked with him to protect their interests during the pandemic when public sentiment turned to welfare programs and redistribution of wealth. Among the support base of Five Star, Draghi has been seen as a puppet of the European Union. His identity as a banker and a bureaucrat made him very unpopular with the constituency of his strongest ally.
Outside of the Five Star support base, Draghi was generally approved. Many appreciated the stability and the direction he gave the Italian government during the later part of the Pandemic. As a result, most other political parties left and right, gave conditional support to Draghi’s government. With all of the political parties of Italy behind him, Draghi managed to keep a steady ship during the pandemic. However, tensions began to surface as the crisis ended.
Cracks in the Coalition
With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, infighting began within Five Star. Two camps emerged. One was pro-Russian. The pro-Russian faction criticized NATO for its eastward expansion and for causing the Ukraine crisis. They advocated for a diplomatic solution and were hesitant to send aid to Ukraine, for fear that it would lead to an arms race in the region. The other faction was made up of Five Star politicians who felt that the pro-Russian politicians were undermining Italy’s position within the European Union. They formed a new Party called Together for the Future and left Five Star.
Things came to a head when the leader of Five Star opposed Draghi’s proposed support of Cost of living Package, insisting that it was not enough. Draghi took this opposition to his proposal as a sign that his government was on its last legs and resigned.
Future for Italy
Five Star lost a lot of support, and many of its allies have lost support among their base due to their political manoeuvres as parts of alliances with Five Star. The Brothers of Italy made huge gains. The Brothers of Italy never allied with the Five Star Party, and did not suffered the taint of politics that other parties have. The party takes a harsh stance against immigration. The future government will be xenophobic as the Brothers of Italy will make a crackdown on the Italian migrant population and consequence the informal sector of the Italian economy a priority.