Italian politics has always been a roller coaster, with each term bringing its share of betrayals, party divisions and changes of government. Last week, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio quit his party, 5 star movement (M5S) and took many legislators with him. He blamed his former party for undermining Rome’s international reputation.
Before that, local elections and a referendum on justice had triggered a confusing situation within the right-wing bloc. The two coalition leaders, the myopic Matteo Salvini and the politically ambiguous Giorgia Meloni, secretly fight for supremacy while publicly declaring their love for each other. The third member of the right-wing coalition, the indefatigable Silvio Berlusconi, now seems more focused on his new Monza football team than politics, after giving up his become President of the Italian Republic.
And in the wider context of this legislature, three governments have tried to secure the seat of the Italian executive, Palazzo Chigi, with little luck. Two political crises – in 2019 (in a disco on the beach) and 2021 – triggered the rise and fall of the cabinets led by Giuseppe Conte, former independent and now anonymous M5S president, leading to the birth of the current technocratic government by Mario Draghi. In the midst of this uncertainty, Democratic Party chief builder Enrico Letta is taking hits in the dark, as his strategy of alliance with the M5S is yielding hardly any results.
While bouncing from one pitiful situation to another, the mandate is now almost over, as general legislative elections will take place in May 2023. What can we expect to happen?
Elections 2023: a victory for the right – and for Russia?
The 2023 elections will represent a historic turning point for Italian politics. Just when we all thought we had just overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation abroad has turned grim – with war in Ukraine, tight supply chains and runaway inflation. As dark clouds gather over Europe’s borders, voters will have to ask themselves a question: will Italy place itself in the Euro-Atlantic bloc led by NATO and the EU? ? Or would we rather side with the rising alliance of China and Russia?
The current government bends over backwards to firmly assert its position among its allies in favor of Ukraine. But significant pressure is mounting. Populist and pro-Russian lawmakers from the League and M5S are willing to sacrifice Ukraine’s territorial integrity to normalize relations with Putin. Moreover, the Kremlin’s media operation in Italy is trying to win public support and confuse the war, as Russian heavyweights and propagandists are regularly featured on our television programs.
The future political outcome depends heavily on the problems Draghi’s government is currently facing. From soaring prices to economic collapse, the former savior of the euro and the EU painted a clear picture at the G7 in Germany: tackling inflation is the key word to avoid rising strength populists. Only time will tell if he will make it a success.
Predicting a post-liberal Italy
Let’s imagine for a moment that the worst happens. Mario Draghi spares no effort but fails to cope with inflation. Prices are reaching dizzying heights and the country is on the verge of social revolt. Many predict that Italian anti-establishment political forces will take over after the 2023 elections, to the detriment of Italy’s international relations.
Who would be the key players? There is no shortage of populist figures on the Italian political scene, with Salvini, Alessandro Di Battista — the last self-proclaimed number one radical activist of the M5S — and Italexit‘s up-and-coming Gianluigi Paragone all ready to step in, while an infamous cabinet and an incompetent cast of actors with dubious pedigree and motivations would add fuel to the problems in Italy.
One of the first measures could well be to put in place a policy of appeasement with Russia to tackle issues such as inflation and energy supply. For them, it is really more important to allow the Italians to turn on their air conditioners than to support Ukraine, as Draghi has vehemently put it. Consequence of a policy of peace at all costs, Italy would jeopardize or even break its existing alliances in Europe and NATO, in favor of rising (but less democratic) powers.
What can we expect at home? Traditional and Christian values - in the style of a Trumpist agenda to “make Italy even greater” – would threaten opposition forces, as well as rights like abortion and civil partnerships. Similarly, a firm grip on immigration would exacerbate the international situation with neighboring countries, as well as the lives of migrants and refugees themselves.
And if Salvini’s last stint as interior minister in 2019 is to be believed, it may be harder to voice dissenting views. The police at the time were keen to remove the banners against the minister during his endless election campaign. By the way, Matteo Salvini was so eager to solve problems and help his fellow citizens that he worked 17 full days in 2019.
Verification of the parts‘ health
Although there is a high risk that the populist parties will win next year, the truth is that the scenario is highly unpredictable. The right-wing bloc is currently a battleground between Salvini and even more right-wing Giorgia Meloni, whose party Fratelli from Italy (Brothers of Italy) took the lead of the coalition since it now occupies first place in the polls. Yet the fact is that his group is growing as Salvini’s League loses consensus.
Interestingly, it seems the two leaders are at odds over foreign policy. On the one hand, Salvini favors a softer line with Russia. On the other hand, Meloni resolutely supports the Atlantic policy of the cabinet.
Meanwhile, the center-left coalition includes the Democratic Party and Conte’s M5S. While the former enjoys relatively good health, the latter, torn apart by splits and poor results in local elections, seems to be past its peak. Between right and left, the center welcomes pocket parties capable of tipping the scales of the next parliament. Still, the center said it would only support the left if the Democratic Party kicked the M5S out of the coalition.
Two rallying points represent the only certainty of the Italian political scenario: the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Draghi. As they eclipse all other politicians with their stature, they grow old and tired of the sinister plans and stupid nature of the rulers. But with what lies ahead, let’s hope they have some fuel left in the tank.