The far-right Brothers of Italy party led by Giorgia Meloni and the far-right party Northern League led by Matteo Salvini are currently leading the most recent polls, with 21% and 20.6% respectively.
Salvini’s party had been topping the list as Italy’s favourite right-wing party since 2018. Brothers of Italy snatched the top spot when Salvini decided to support the ‘national emergency’ government led by former ECB head Mario Draghi.
Brothers of Italy continues to be in the opposition, along with a few other small groups of MPs.
However, the two parties have always said they would present themselves in the next general elections set for 2023 together with the party of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Forza Italia, currently polling at 6.9%.
If Italy voted today, a coalition of these three parties would thus obtain a majority in parliament and Giorgia Meloni would be the candidate to form a new government according to an unwritten rule that states the leader of such a governing coalition would be the one who obtains the most votes.
Brothers of Italy was founded in 2012 by a group of MPs and politicians who had trained in the post-fascist formation Aleanza Nazionale (National Alliance) and its youth branches, in some cases even holding government posts.
Meloni herself was the youth minister from 2008 to 2011. Her party is considered to have strong nationalist views, particularly towards irregular migrants. Meloni has been calling for a “naval blockade” in the Mediterranean Sea for years.
Meloni’s views on the EU have changed with time. After being a full-blown Eurosceptic who argued in favour of Italy leaving the euro in 2014, she softened her views since she became president of the European Conservative Group (ECR) in 2020. She now argues that Italy does not have to leave the EU but that the bloc should become a ‘confederation’ of states. She is also opposed to strengthening the bloc’s institutions.
In recent years, Meloni has strengthened its relations with other sovereign leaders like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán – who was a guest of honour at a Brothers of Italy meeting in 2019 – Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Slovenian counterpart Janez Janša. Just a week ago, Meloni was a guest at the strategic forum in Bled, organised by the current Slovenian EU presidency.
Among Italy’s various party leaders, Meloni has one of the highest approval ratings with 44.4%, another poll released on 4 September showed. Salvini and centre-left democratic party leader Enrico Letta trail behind with 31% and 29.6% respectively.
Only Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s approval rating is higher than Meloni, with 67%. However, he is unlikely to run for the next elections as it is hoped that he steps into the shoes of President Sergio Mattarella, who will leave office in January 2022.
Meloni’s sovereign and very critical positions towards the EU (on several occasions shared by Salvini), do not seem to scare Italian citizens. Brothers of Italy and the Northern League have already been in government and the idea of a ‘sanitary cordon’ against the far-right similar to the model adopted in France and Germany has never been implemented in Italy.
Even with the premise that elections are more than a year away, several Italian observers consider the victory of the right-wing coalition likely once the mandate of Draghi’s ’emergency’ government comes to an end. This means Meloni could lead the next executive as the first woman and the first openly sovereign leader in the history of a united Italy.