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Last Days Before the Italian Elections by Hélène de Lauzun

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Last Days Before the Italian Elections

On Sunday, September 25th, early elections will be held in Italy to renew the 200 senators and 400 deputies who make up the Italian Parliament. With just a few days to go, Fratelli d’Italia party president Giorgia Meloni looks set to become prime minister.

The collapse of Mario Draghi’s government, which took office in February 2021 but was forced to resign in July 2022, has led to the organisation of new elections to give Italy a new parliamentary majority, as the previous one failed to produce a government. 

The publication of polls in the press has been prohibited by Italian electoral law since September 9th. But the latest opinion polls leave little room for doubt: the centre-right coalition of Fratelli d’Italia, Lega, and Forza Italia parties is on course to win.

The progress made by Giorgia Meloni’s small party over the last few years is impressive to many observers of Italian politics. While it hovered around 4% four years ago, it is now credited with 24% to 26% of the vote, which for her opens the way to the Palazzo Chigi, where the Italian government is based. Benefiting from the reserves of votes from her partners, whose scores are steadily eroding, she could even obtain more. 

Its Lega allies, led by Matteo Salvini, would get between 12% and 14%, while the third member of the coalition, Forza Italia, the party of Silvio Berlusconi, has around 8%. The coalition can therefore hope to win 46-48% of the vote. This is not an absolute majority in terms of votes, but the voting system, a proportional system corrected by a majority bonus, should allow it to win up to 250 seats out of 400. 

This prospect creates a powerful demobilising effect among left-wing activists, who are likely to join the ranks of abstainers. Right-wing voters are now very motivated by the chance of winning and will vote massively, while on the Left, the certainty of losing is such that there is a risk of abstention, according to the analysis of Rado Fonda, political analyst for the SWG polling institute. Some estimates put abstention at more than 30%; others as high as 40%. 

Disenchantment has taken hold of large sections of the Italian population, particularly among the most modest, who are tired of the whirlwind of governments. It reinforces an instinctive distrust of public affairs that is already present in many Italians. For those who decide at the last minute, the choice of Meloni comes quite naturally: the winning candidate traditionally benefits from a boost in the last few days, as the hesitators choose to bet on the winning horse. For Lorenzo Pregliasco, director of YouTrend, it is not impossible that Fratelli d’Italia and the Lega alone—without the addition of Forza Italia—could manage to obtain a majority.

The challenge facing Fratelli d’Italia is to successfully transform itself into a genuine governing party. Since its creation, it has always been in opposition; it is precisely for this reason that it is now attracting attention, as it appears to be a credible alternative to the parties that have so far been unable to retain power and confidence. The stakes are twofold: while the stage of forming the government should not pose any problems, the question of its longevity will arise. Meloni will look for international allies such as Abascal (VOX) in Spain or Orbán (Fidesz) in Hungary, which is not necessarily to the liking of her partner Berlusconi. The former prime minister has already warned her: at the first sign of ’anti-Europeanism,’ his party would leave the coalition.

Hélène de Lauzun studied at the École Normale Supérieure de Paris. She taught French literature and civilization at Harvard and received a Ph.D. in History from the Sorbonne. She is the author of Histoire de l’Autriche (Perrin, 2021).