ROME: A party with neo-fascist roots, the Brothers of Italy, won the most votes in Italy’s national elections and looks set to deliver the South European country’s first far-right-led government since World War 2 and make party leader Giorgia Meloni its first woman premier, near-final results shown on Monday.
Italy’s lurch to the far right immediately shifted Europe’s geopolitical reality, placing a euroskeptic party in a position to lead a founding member of the European Union and its third-largest economy.
Near-final results showed the center-right coalition netting some 44 percent of the parliamentary vote, with the Brothers of Italy snatching some 26 percent. Her coalition partners divided up the remainder, with the anti-immigrant League of Matteo Salvini winning nearly 9 percent and the more moderate Forza Italia of ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi taking about 8 percent.
The center-left Democratic Party and its allies had about 26 percent, while the 5-Star Movement — which had been the biggest vote-getter in the 2018 parliamentary elections — saw its share of the vote halved to about 15 percent this time around.
Turnout was a historic low of 64 percent. Pollsters suggested voters stayed home in part in protest and also because they were disenchanted by the backroom deals that had created the three governments since the previous election.
Meloni, whose party traces its origins to the postwar, neo-fascist Italian Social Movement, sounded a moderate, unifying tone in a victory speech on Monday morning that noted that Italians had finally been able to clearly determine who they wanted to govern.
“If we are called to govern this nation, we will do it for everyone, we will do it for all Italians and we will do it with the aim of uniting the people [of this country],” Meloni said. “Italy chose us. We will not betray (the country) as we never have.”
While the center-right was the clear winner, the formation of a government is still weeks away and will involve consultations among party leaders and with President Sergio Mattarella. Outgoing premier Mario Draghi will remain in a caretaker role until then.
The elections, which took place some six months early after Draghi’s government collapsed, came at a crucial time for Europe as it faces Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the related soaring energy costs that have hit ordinary Italian pocketbooks and businesses.
A Meloni-led government is largely expected to follow Italy’s current foreign policy, including her pro-North Atlantic Treaty Organization stance and strong support for supplying Ukraine with weapons to defend against Russia’s invasion, even as her coalition allies stake a slightly different tone.
Both Berlusconi and Salvini have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. While both have distanced themselves from his invasion, Salvini has warned that sanctions against Moscow are hurting Italian industry, and even Berlusconi has excused Putin’s invasion as foisted on him by pro-Moscow separatists in the Donbas region.
A bigger shift and one likely to cause friction with European powers is likely to come over migration. Meloni has called for a naval blockade to prevent migrant boats from leaving North African shores and has proposed screening potential asylum-seekers in Africa, before they set out on smugglers’ boats to Europe.