The September 25 General Election has arrived and Italians head to the polls. The choice: to vote in the most far-right government since World War II or leave Italy in political limbo once again.
The September 25 General Election is being closely watched across Europe. The last polls before an embargo showed the far-right Brothers of Italy (Fdl) leading, with their coalition parties looking to guarantee enough votes for the coalition to easily take the win.
Girogia Meloni leads the Fdl and is aiming to become the country’s first female prime minister. Whilst the coalition have agreed that the leader of the party with the most votes becomes Prime Minister, it is not their decision. That rests with President Mattarella, backed by parliament, and he plays an important role in Italy’s constitution.
Ms Meloni and her allies want a radical change to the role of President by making it a directly elected head of state rather than an impartial figure chosen by parliament. Whilst “Presidentialism” sounds more democratic, some Italians are worried by the thought of handing more power to their head of state. That concern harks back to Italy’s previous experience of fascism.
However, Meloni resents being linked to Italy’s fascist past. She backs Western sanctions on Russia and has toned down rhetoric on Europe. That has not stopped her embracing the old fascist slogan of “God, fatherland and family”.
What does Meloni stand for?
Meloni does not like being linked to Italy’s previous fascist regime, the last being that headed by Mussolini during the 1930s and 40s. But that does not stop similarities being noted.
She has spoken out against the “LGBT lobby”. Meloni has also called for a naval blockade of Libya to halt migration.
The EU agreed to send Italy €200bn in post-Covid recovery grants and loans on condition certain reforms agreed by the outgoing unity government of Mario Draghi are implemented. Giorgia Meloni has called for the plan to be revised. She has also talked of doing more to “defend” Italy’s national interests in the EU, whilst at the same time saying Fdl can be trusted in the international arena.
Little wonder the eyes of Europe are on Italy today.
State of the economy
Following the Covid pandemic, which hit Italy hard, the economy was picking up. Then the energy crisis sent prices soaring. The majority of Italians are worried about paying their bills, whilst the politicians argue over Russia and Europe during their general election campaigning.
There are almost 51 million Italians with the right to vote. They have until 23:00 to do so. Of those, 2.6 million are first-time voters and another 4.7 million are abroad. Whilst former PM Silvio Berlusconi of Forza Italia (FI) – one of the centre-right coalition partners – joined TikTok in a bid to get more young voters, many will not make the journey back home from university just to vote.
President Sergio Mattarella cast his ballot early in the Sicilian capital Palermo.
Who is going against the centre-right coalition?
Until early August, Italy’s left and centre parties were aiming to mount a joint challenge to the Meloni alliance. However, they could reach an agreement. The party closest in the opinion polls is the centre-left Democratic Party (PD). With few parties working in alliance with him, the PD leader Enrico Letta faces an uphill struggle.
In the previous election, the party with the most vote was the Five Star Movement. It was they who brought about the collapse of the unity government headed by Mario Draghi. Led by another former PM, Giuseppe Conte, they shares several policies with the PD but they do not see eye to eye.
Voting for the Chamber and Senate
Italians are electing two houses of parliament – the Chamber and the Senate. Under new rules their size has been cut by a third; the Chamber has 400 seats and the Senate 200.
The winning alliance will benefit from this cut, especially when combined with Italy’s mixed electoral system. Over a third of the seats are won in a first-past-the-post constituency contest. The remaining 60+% are gained through proportional representation.
That means, any alliance which wins 40% of the vote could win as many as 60% of seats. The new system is being closely watched. Two-thirds of parliament is needed to carry out keynote policies – such as Presidentialism – without the need for a referendum. It is this possibility, to amend the Constitution without agreement by the majority of the people, that worries the centre and left most.