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  • Writer's pictureAlex Subrizi

Black-out (revisited)

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

In contrast to last year, our lights (and water pumps) stayed on all through this past summer. A still happier contrast is that between the widespread expectation of a hard right turn in Italian politics (following Giorgia Meloni's ascension to the role of prime minister in late September 2022) and the rather more muted reality.

The Fratelli di Italia party's moderated tone and, relative to expectations, policy-making under Ms Meloni has in part to do with constraints placed on her by Italy's shaky economy, by the simple fact of EU membership, and, most pointedly, by the conditions attached to Italy's receiving close to €195 billion in EU funding as stipulated in the European Commission's Recovery and Resilience Plan for Italy, the stated goal of which is "to make Italy more equitable, sustainable, and inclusive".

But some credit must also go to Ms. Meloni. Though some of her early rhetoric was grating to a left-leaning globalist-cosmopolitan like me (others too), since entering government she has worked (largely successfully, in my opinion) to give the Brothers of Italy party an image of moderation and international respectability. And, image aside, she has governed as a moderate conservative. This label is not entirely reassuring given Italy's dire need of reforms to its labor laws, judicial system, and public administration generally. But it is a big relief relative to the neo-fascist agenda first linked to Ms Meloni as she stood for election last year. As was clear in my original Black-out post, I was worried (it feels good to be wrong sometimes).

Meloni's keen political sense was on display again this past week when Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s far-right Northern League and Minister of Infrastructure in Meloni's cabinet, chose Florence for a rally of European right-wing populists and nationalists. Around 2,000 people were expected at the Fortezza da Basso today, with delegations from 12 parties including Alternative for Germany, the Austrian Freedom Party and Belgium’s Flemish Interest. Marine Le Pen, a veteran of the French hard-right, was due to address the event by video link. And there were other notable absentees, Meloni amongst them (Geert Wilders, whose Party for Freedom triumphed at the Dutch election last month, stayed home to resolve the problems he's having forming a new government).

The gap that persists between Salvini and Meloni is reassuring, but the general hostility amongst Meloni's supporters to social diversity, be it ethnic or sexual, remains concerning. Meloni is such a canny politician that it has become hard for many to pinpoint where she really stands on a number of issues. Our worst fears have (so far) proved unfounded, but moderate, pro-market liberals are still holding their breath.

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