Italy will vote for a new national government on September 25. The outcome of the parliamentary elections could have dramatic effects on the country and European Union.
Mabel Berezin is a comparative sociologist at Cornell University whose work explores fascist, nationalist and populist movements in Europe and associated threats to democracy.
“On Sunday, right-wing nationalist Giorgia Meloni will likely become the next Italian prime minister. Although other nationalist parties have achieved electoral results in Europe, the Italian election is the one to really watch.
“In contrast to Marine Le Pen in France and the Sweden Democrats, Meloni will be the Prime Minster and the nationalist right will head the government. Meloni has an unusual profile. Raised by a single mother in a working-class district of Rome, she speaks with a distinct Roman accent and does not have a university degree. She does possess street smarts in abundance and the ability to turn on a euro coin to move an agenda forward.
“Meloni’s margin of victory will likely be larger than the last polls suggested. Meloni, as many right nationalists, had been Eurosceptic in the past but changed her mind as the difficulties of Brexit became obvious. Covid funds from the EU have softened everyone’s position on the European Union. Nor is she unique in her tough stance on immigration control.
“Meloni’s ability to seize the difficulties of the present economic moment in Italy and tie it to ‘soft’ identity issues separates her from other nationalist politicians in Europe. Her shrewd support of Vox – the Spanish right party – suggests she is promoting a form of Mediterranean nationalism distinct from right parties north of the Alps.
“Her theme, ‘I am Giorgia, I am a woman, I am a mother, I am Italian, I am Christian and don’t take it away from me,’ is sufficiently vague on specifics but firm in its cry for protection to appeal to multiple constituencies. This is potent. Meloni, should she win, is likely to become the model for conservative nationalists across Europe.”