European Interest

More voters in Italy lean to right

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The logo chosen by Matteo Salvini for the 2018 electoral campaign, which resembles that of Donald Trump.

With elections just days away, Italy’s swing to the right of the political spectrum could give rise to a more extremist agenda. Italians go to the bolls on March 4.

Although voter polls before a media blackout pointed to a hung parliament, where no one party gains a majority, CNBC reports that there is a chance a coalition of centre-right and far-right parties could gain a majority.

According to CNBC’s report, this coalition would contain former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party, alongside the controversial far-right parties of Fratelli d’Italia and the former Lega Nord party, now re-branded as ‘Lega’ and led by Matteo Salvini.

Experts say that such an alliance would allow far-right parties to push a more extremist agenda.

Speaking to CNBC, Lorenzo Pregliasco, a professor of political science at the University of Bologna, said that such a coalition would in fact be more of a “right-centre” alliance than a centre-right one, noting that the right-wing parties could have significant influence if in government.

“The prominence of right-wing issues is going to grow as a result of this election,” Pregliasco told CNBC. “Even the centre-left has moved to the right (during the campaign) on some topics, including immigration.”

“I think Italian society has shifted to the right in these last years and Italian politics is following that suit. If the centre-right wins, you will have a kind of right-centre coalition rather than a centre-right coalition,” he added.

Rather than being fringe parties, the right-wing Berlusconi-Salvini contingent are no strangers to power.

As reported by CNBC, Fratelli d’Italia – as a party – originates from the right-wing Alleanza Nazionale (a successor of the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement formed in 1946 by supporters of dictator Benito Mussolini) that was in a government coalition led by Berlusconi in 1994, 2001 and 2006.

Pregliasco said Lega, formerly the Northern League, was also an experienced political force as it too had supported previous Berlusconi governments and are currently governing in the important regions of Lombardy and Veneto. Lega is prominent across northern regions and was founded on a separatist agenda.

Indeed, Fratelli and Lega together are likely to be more powerful than the more “moderate” Forza Italia (and the smaller partner of Noi con l’Italia, a centre-right party) component of the coalition.

Meanwhile, Mabel Berezin, a professor of sociology at Cornell University and an expert on populism and fascism in Europe, warned that “no matter what, the outcome of the elections will not be good”.

“Berlusconi — who seems to be the most likely candidate for a significant coalition — does not shy away from partnering with the extreme right. If he succeeds, not only will this be an extraordinary political resurrection, but he would come to power with the same coalition that he assembled for his first government in 1994,” she said.

In a separate report, The Guardian noted former White House strategist Steve Bannon – on his way to Rome – has hinted of his support for the far-right candidate Matteo Salvini.

A meeting between the head of La Lega and the former White House strategist has not been planned, but Bannon has said he is intrigued by the election and believes it has major implications for Europe.

Bannon is not new to European politics. He is close to Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, who has credited him with boosting the successful campaign for Britain to leave the EU, in part because of the support of Breitbart news which has an office in the UK, reported The Guardian.

Bannon’s visit to Rome follows a tumultuous period for the former head of Breitbart. Lawyers for the US president have threatened legal action against him following the publication of Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, which quoted Bannon and made explosive allegations about the inner workings of the Oval Office.


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