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Far Right ـ Analysis, Brothers of Italy have lead

Jul 24, 2022 | Studies & Reports

European Centre for Counterterrorism and Intelligence Studies, Germany & Netherlands – ECCI

Italy’s far right celebrate Draghi’s downfall and look poised to take power

Theguardian – If Wednesday marked a brutal, undignified end for Mario Draghi’s government, one person who enjoyed watching his downfall from the sidelines was Giorgia Meloni, the leader of Brothers of Italy, a party with neofascist origins, who is in pole position to become Italy’s next prime minister after snap elections this autumn.As the shenanigans played out in the senate, culminating with three key parties in Draghi’s coalition boycotting a confidence vote and him resigning, Meloni took to the stage in Piazza Vittorio, a square in Rome where Brothers of Italy, the only party to stay out of Draghi’s government, have set up a shop for the month of July, to express her satisfaction.

“A year ago they told us we were heading for the sewer and were unrealistic,” she told supporters. “We’ve had three different governments, three different majorities [since the March 2018 general elections]. Have any worked? No. History has proved us right.”Meloni has reason to celebrate. Brothers of Italy have gone from barely scraping 4% of the vote in the 2018 general election to becoming the biggest party in opinion polls. The rise has been consistent, and now the party leads a group including Matteo Salvini’s far-right League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia that usually run together in elections.

The populist Five Star Movement (M5S) set the crisis in motion after boycotting a confidence vote last week on a €26bn cost of living package. However, it was the League and Forza Italia that ultimately sealed Draghi’s fate by rejecting his pleas to help see his administration through to what would have been its natural end in the spring next year. M5S then followed suit.“This was the last window of opportunity left for those who wanted to go to elections,” said Riccardo Magi, the president of the small leftwing party More Europe. “M5S triggered the bomb, the other two added the final bomb. There is no doubt they were influenced by Meloni; she now dominates the coalition and they did what she wanted them to do.”

As campaigning gets under way, commentators are contemplating how Draghi, 74, the former European Central Bank chief credited with restoring Italy’s credibility on the world stage, lost grip of power. He was appointed to lead a government of national unity in February 2021, with the main goal being to steer Italy out of the coronavirus pandemic and revive its long-stagnant economy.Magi credited the Draghi government for achieving “more in 18 months than any government did in the past 30 years”, including passing crucial justice and fiscal reforms. His government also came up with a plan to ensure Italy’s access to its €200bn share of the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund.

But it was not enough to rein in his frequently squabbling coalition. “He thought it was a government of national unity but in fact it was a government of disunity,” said Michele Geraci, a former undersecretary at the ministry of economic development who has close ties to the League. “Remember, it started during the Covid emergency. That was the only thing that brought the parties together during the first few months. After that, there was no more common goal.”

Draghi’s detractors criticised the technocrat’s incapacity to act as a politician, especially when it came to dealing with parliament. “Let’s just say that not being a politician was a limitation, because it meant he wouldn’t listen to parliamentarians and their proposals,” said Catia Polidori, a deputy with Forza Italia.Mattia Diletti, a politics professor at Rome’s Sapienza University, said Draghi may have been harbouring disappointment over his failed promotion to head of state in January. “I can understand from his point of view how annoying it is dealing with so many parties, leaders and people who are so demanding,” said Diletti. “At the same time, he has never been a political animal.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also had an influence on his government’s harmony. A major bone of contention for M5S was Italy’s support for sending arms to Ukraine. A faction of the party is pro-Russia and Draghi made clear during his speech in the senate on Wednesday that Italy would not waiver in its support for war-torn Ukraine. The League and Forza Italia have also nurtured ties with Russia.“It appears that the parties that pulled the plug are pro-Putin parties – that’s the case of M5S, that’s the case of Silvio Berlusconi, and that’s the case, quite obviously, of Salvini,” said Francesco Galietti, the founder of Policy Sonar, a consultancy in Rome.

Brothers of Italy and its coalition partners may be the favourites to win elections, but with Italian politics being so unpredictable, anything could happen in the next couple of months.“I hope that, after the way in which the Draghi government collapse played out, Italians realise how much damage these political forces have done,” said Magi. “The collapse of his government could have a boomerang effect.”

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