To listen to the media, the EU is shocked and dismayed by the success of the right-wing Brothers of Italy party in the Italian general election, which has reportedly put Brussels in crisis mode. Much is made of the Brothers, the largest party at 26% of the total vote, forming ‘the most far-right government in Italy since World War II’ (sub-text: you know, since that Mussolini chappie). This all part of the Left’s rallying call against the explosive rise of ‘fascism’ in Europe, this time in its birthplace of Italy. Are the Brothers (and Sisters) of Brussels horrified at the prospect? Not really.
There are a number of reasons for this. For a start, Italy has had 70 governments in the 77 years since 1945. The new coalition that will be formed by the Brothers is unlikely to exceed the average life of an Italian government. It is another passing populist moment.
Nor has support for the right surged as much as it might appear: it is more a case of its votes being redistributed. Matteo Salvini’s robust right-wing League party lost half of its votes since the last election in 2018, people switching to the new Brothers instead, this time. Right-wingers and conservatives in general lost faith in Salvini when he and his party become an ineffectual part of an ineffectual government. His pre-election rabble-rousing promises were left hanging in the air back then. I suspect those of Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers, will do the same this time. Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party’s share of the vote dropped from 14% to 8%. The left’s vote has remained pretty much the same. And the Europhile technocrats of the Italian establishment are still pulling the strings behind the curtain.
And such is the wearied cynicism of the Italian electorate, the turnout was a record low.
Besides all that, as mentioned in a previous blog, the EU has 750 million euros of grants and favourable loans in its Covid Recovery Fund to disburse to well-behaved satrapies. Italy is lined up for a whacking 200 billion of that, which would be the biggest influx of money into Italy since the Marshal Plan after World War II.
So Meloni and the Brothers will make some noises and publicly insult the EU for a good bit of PR banter headlines and popularity on the home front. I am sure the EU has discounted this already. There might be a bit of fun and mischief along the way, but sadly I doubt it will amount to much more than that. Alas, the Italian election is not causing sleepless nights in Brussels.