Brothers of Italy: a once-marginal far-right party plots local election success | Italy

JFive years ago, the Brothers of Italy, a party with neo-fascist origins, won barely 4% of the vote. It is now leading in opinion polls, and angry speeches by its leader Giorgia Meloni have filled places in Italy ahead of local elections which begin on Sunday.

Italians will elect mayors and councilors in around 1,000 cities, including Genoa, Palermo, Verona, Parma and a host of provincial capitals, in a vote that will test the strength of political parties ahead of national elections in next year.

Meloni is seeking to confirm his position as the leader of a right-wing alliance, comprising Matteo Salvini’s far-right League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, which is set to contest the 2023 ballot. she could become Italy’s first female prime minister.

In the days before the local elections, which are held in two rounds, Meloni traveled to Viterbo, in the Lazio region, to close the campaign of the candidate for mayor of the Brothers of Italy, Laura Allegrini. The medieval walled town is symbolic for the party: it’s where Giorgio Almirante, the founder of the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI), closed his electoral campaigns, and where Meloni was elected president of the youth wing of the National Alliance, the party that emerged from MSI before transforming into Brothers of Italy in 2004.

The 45-year-old’s speech to the crowd of around 1,000 in the Piazza del Comune began with a defense of women. “We are the party against pink quotas but we are the only ones with the courage to put women in positions of responsibility,” she declared, before repeating her intransigent positions on immigration from Africa and the adoption of children by same-sex couples, while raiding. against the left and the government led by Prime Minister Mario Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank.

Those who had flocked to see her were a mix of young, old, staunch supporters of the Brethren of Italy and those who admire Meloni but are weighing their options, for Sunday’s vote and longer term.

“Politics in Italy is broken, lots of talk but the results are the same,” Rita said. “But Meloni has good ideas and is consistent in what she says. Now we have to see what she can do.

Enza Calisti, who was waving a flag of the Brothers of Italy, had no doubt: “She’s the only one who knows how to do politics, and she’s the most honest. Simona Mengoni said she admired Meloni for her courage. “She’s not afraid to fight for what she believes in. I love Salvini too, but I want Meloni to be prime minister.”

Giorgia Meloni and Matteo Salvini in January. Photography: Fabio Cimaglia/Sintesi/Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock

Umberto Garbini, 28, had traveled to the rally from the nearby Umbrian town of Orvieto, where he is an adviser to the Brothers of Italy. “The party invests in young people and welcomes those who have new ideas that can add value. These elections are important because the results will be like a mirror of what could happen next year,” he said.

Meloni’s growing influence has caused intense competition with his coalition partner Salvini, whose League party, part of Draghi’s broad alliance, has steadily declined in opinion polls. The two men tried to form a united front at a rally in Verona, where their parties are running together, on Thursday evening. “I guarantee you this is not the end of Romeo and Juliet,” Meloni said.

Their warm embrace came days after Salvini, fearing that the Brothers of Italy were gaining ground in the League’s northern territories, accused Meloni of splitting the alliance by choosing to run alone in several municipalities.

Francesco Giubilei, the author of the book Giorgia Meloni: The Revolution of the Conservatives, said: “These are just local elections but they are important for several reasons. They are the main political event before national elections, and several key towns and villages are involved. If Brothers of Italy also proves its support at the polls, it will have a heavier weight in the coalition, more so if it wins in places where it stands alone.

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Italy’s Brothers were the only party to stay out of Draghi’s government, a position Meloni used to his advantage while maintaining a constructive dialogue with the prime minister amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. . She is pro-NATO and supports Italy sending arms to the war-torn country – unlike the League – and increasing defense spending.

On the left, the Democratic Party is slightly behind the Brothers of Italy in the polls, but is split on forming coalitions with the declining Five Star Movement. Still, the party is “the pillar of the system”, according to Mattia Diletti, a politics professor at La Sapienza University in Rome, and even if Meloni’s star rises, a large part of Italian voters are hoping for another broad alliance after the next general election, whether or not it is led by Draghi.

“Due to the international and economic situation, nobody wants a big change,” Diletti said.

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