EU officials annoyed by the force of the Italian radical right | Voice of America

ROME – British Brexit supporters are drooling over the idea that another member of the European Union decides to leave the bloc. And they are hedging their bets whether it’s France, Italy or one of the so-called “clumsy squads” of Central European countries so often grappling with Brussels.

At first glance, the prospect of another EU member leaving the bloc – a Frexit or an Italexit – seems unlikely to seasoned political observers. But Brexiters aren’t the only ones seeing a potentially unpleasant clash looming on the horizon between Brussels and Rome.

Current opinion polls have allowed the Lega party of the fiery populist Matteo Salvini and the national-conservative Fratelli d’Italia party to vote systematically together around 40 to 42%, enough, with the support of the party Forza Italia, more moderate but much smaller than former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, to form a government coalition in the not so distant future.

And that annoys EU officials.

Early elections

Italy is not set to hold an election until June 2023 at the latest, but many lawmakers and commentators are predicting an early poll sooner, either because the fragile government of national unity overseen by the current prime minister, the former European central banker Mario Draghi, collapses.

Or because “Super Mario,” as Draghi is popularly nicknamed, decides to run for President of Italy next year when outgoing President Sergio Mattarella resigns. After guiding Italy through six particularly turbulent years politically, complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, Mattarella, the descendant of a Sicilian family, decided it was time to retire.

Later this month, he turns 80. Recently, he told the children of a primary school in Rome: “Mine is a demanding job, but in eight months my mission ends. I will be able to rest. I am old.”

Few believe he can be persuaded to change his mind. Italian daily La Stampa noted: “In order to convince the current head of state to stand against his intentions, political calamities of such gravity and magnitude should occur that no one could wish them. “

Mattarella’s decision sparked feverish speculation in Rome that Draghi would throw his hat in the ring, triggering the circumstances of a likely snap parliamentary election whether or not he wins the presidential election.

Italian political parties are already competing for positions and making electoral calculations, which are particularly complicated given the fragmentation of Italian politics. Twenty-one parties contested the last legislative elections in 2018 in a contest that largely featured two very unstable and combustible electoral alliances with ever-shifting allegiances and strong personal animosities. Political commentators say the upcoming election could see even more parties competing for seats and elected lawmakers changing allegiances.

A reduction in the number of deputies in the next election, from 630 to 400 deputies in the lower house and from 315 to 200 in the Senate, adds to the complexity. But based on current opinion data, Salvini’s Lega and Fratelli, led by 44-year-old Giorgia Meloni, will be the most likely to form a governing coalition.

“The balance of power has gradually shifted towards a full-fledged right-wing coalition,” say Valerio Alfonso Bruno, senior researcher at the UK-based Center for Analysis of the Radical Right, and Vittorio Emanuele Parsi, a newspaper columnist, in a research note for the public policies site Social Europe. Andrea Ungari, professor of politics at LUISS University in Rome, agrees and believes that a right-wing coalition should win more than 51% of the vote in the next elections.

European officials alarmed

Draghi was recruited by Mattarella as technocratic prime minister in January when a government coalition mainly backed by the maverick Five Star, M5S and the center-left Partito Democratico collapsed. He is publicly urged by center-left political allies in the Italian capital to give up his presidential ambitions to avoid risking opening the door to Salvini and Meloni.

In Brussels, EU officials say they are alarmed by the prospects of the Lega and Fratelli in power in Italy, fearing numerous disputes between Brussels and Rome on migration policy, border controls, asylum policies, naval blockades of migrant boats, to name a few – button issues.

Neither Salvini nor Meloni, who aspires to become Italy’s first female prime minister, are in favor of Italexit. But they are harshly critical of the EU and becoming more and more so, with Meloni, a former youth minister, forcing the pace, and Salvini trying to keep pace. An EU official complained to VOA: “Meloni only sees Europe as a cash cow for Italy – she wants to milk it while ignoring the rules.

Fratelli d’Italia, co-founded by Meloni in 2012, is the main heir of the post-WWII Movimento Sociale Italiano, formed by the fascist allies of dictator Benito Mussolini. In 2018, he won just 4% of the national vote, but since then he has come out of the sidelines with surprising speed.

This is in large part thanks, political observers say, to Meloni’s decision to keep his party out of Draghi’s national unity government, which makes him the main voice of the opposition and turns Meloni into a possible candidate. to the general management of the right-wing alliance.

Salvini has chosen to bring his party into the national unity government, fearing electoral repercussions if Lega is unable to influence how the Draghi government allocates $ 240 billion in EU stimulus funds which were allocated to it by Brussels. But he refrained from getting a cabinet role, giving him the opportunity to criticize the government, especially on its brakes on the pandemic. But pollsters say it allowed Meloni to present himself as ideologically pure and consistent.

The increase in support for Meloni’s party came at Lega’s expense, pollsters said. And Meloni, a mother-of-one and a former bartender at one of Rome’s most famous nightclubs, called for a renegotiation of all EU treaties.

Ernesto Galli della Loggia, academic columnist and influential Corriere della Sera, says it is “likely” that Meloni’s party “could soon be the majority party of a center-right government and therefore called upon to lead the nation.” Writing in the newspaper on Tuesday, he called the demonization of the Fratellis “fascist”, saying the slogan is too easily evoked to “delegitimize any position that is not welcome” for the ruling class.

His concern is that the Fratelli are not preparing to rule, to think, and to forge the kind of relationship with the bureaucracy they will need to effect change.

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