September 25, 2022

IN ITALY, THE EVE OF VICTORY:

We wrote here about today’s election in Italy, and the likelihood that it will be won by a conservative coalition led by Giorgia Meloni and the Brothers of Italy party. Meloni is “far right,” which means she is skeptical of the benefits of endless illegal immigration, and a “firebrand,” which means she gives speeches that voters like.

The election is going on right now, and Meloni is favored to emerge as Italy’s next prime minister. She sounds like a winner, and like an American conservative:

Meloni made her comments this week during a rally in the Piazza del Popolo in Rome, saying: “Italy is better than the left-wing governments it has had in recent years. The left is there to blather that everyone is afraid, but the only ones who are afraid are them because they have understood that their system of power is about to end.”

“We are ready, until the last vote, to restore freedom and pride to this nation. They say the markets, Europe, TikTok singers, actors, and influencers are worried about a centre-right victory. We don’t care what they say. We care what the Italians think,” Meloni continued, in comments reported by the newspaper Il Giornale.

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I hope it is not premature to offer Ms. Meloni our congratulations.

Not according to Breaking News Online: Italy’s right-wing bloc wins majority in parliament – exit poll.

UPDATE: A pre-election profile of Meloni in the London Spectator: Giorgia Meloni’s victory would be a triumph for Italian democracy.

The Italian media, which is mostly left-leaning, usually call both Meloni, her party and her coalition centrodestra rather than ‘destra’, a word which the Italians apply to actual extremists. That ought to make the outside world think twice before describing Meloni as the heir to Mussolini. That’s not to say the Italian media is well-disposed to her – most of them are not. They are just forced to be more accurate, given that their readers can see and hear every day what Meloni and Brothers of Italy are doing and saying. Italians know through experience who is and is not a fascist.

Those trying to stick the f-word on her point to a handful of things – only one of which I find even remotely convincing. As a teenager Meloni, who is 45, signed up to Italy’s neo-fascist Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI) which had by then renounced dictatorship and anti-Semitism. Two years later in 1994, it became Alleanza Nazionale (AN) which renounced fascism. But Brothers of Italy which she co-founded in 2012, and whose name is that of Italy’s national anthem, retains – as AN had – the tricolore flame which was MSI’s logo. Many insist this is proof of Meloni’s refusal to abandon fascism. But she says the flame is the symbol of the journey by the post-war Italian right which existed before fascism.

Meloni identifies as a conservative and takes inspiration, not from Benito Mussolini, but from old-fashioned English conservatives such as Sir Roger Scruton and JRR Tolkien, as I discussed at length in my interview with her. At the right’s final rally of the election campaign in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo on Thursday the actor who introduced her on stage before her speech paraphrased what Aragorn told the men of the west before the Battle of Morannon at the Black Gate in the film version of Lord of the Rings: ‘The day of defeat may come but it is not this day! This day we fight!’

Meloni did not go to university and speaks with a rough Roman accent, which makes her the Italian equivalent of a cockney. Which is why it’s odd to hear her compared to Thatcher. This is true in terms of her iron-like character, but not her politics. She is more like an old-fashioned conservative who is often paternalistic in her language, arguing that the state must sometimes protect countries and communities from the free market.

While Berlusconi and Salvini have been in trouble for their pro-Putin sympathies, Meloni unequivocally supports Nato’s arming of Ukraine. So might her coalition partners lure her away from this path given that more than half of Italians oppose sending arms to Ukraine? She told me that, in the coalition agreement she drew up with Salvini and Berlusconi at the start of the campaign she made support of Nato’s Ukraine arms programme a condition.

More: From Reuters on Friday: EU’s von der Leyen delivers veiled warning to Italy’s right wing.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has warned Italy of consequences should it veer away from democratic principles, issuing a barely veiled threat ahead of Sunday’s election that a rightist bloc led by Giorgia Meloni is expected to win.

The comments highlighted concern in some European capitals over the forthcoming election and suggested that relations between Brussels and Rome could get turbulent if Meloni and her partners secure victory.

“My approach is that whatever democratic government is willing to work with us, we’re working together,” von der Leyen said at Princeton University in the United States on Thursday, responding to a question on whether there were any concerns with regard to the upcoming elections in Italy.

“If things go in a difficult direction, I’ve spoken about Hungary and Poland, we have tools,” she added.

Matteo Salvini, the head of the League and a part of Meloni’s conservative alliance, denounced her comments as “shameful arrogance”.

“What is this, a threat?” he wrote on Twitter. “Respect the free, democratic and sovereign vote of the Italian people!”

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Eric Mamer, spokesman for the European Commission, told reporters in Brussels that von der Leyen had not been looking to interfere in Italian politics.

“She was stressing the role of the Commission as guardian of the (European) treaties with regard to the rule of law,” he said on Friday.

Meanwhile, CBS drops an F-bomb:

Walter Cronkite could not be reached for comment.

I’m not sure why an EU official and CBS would smear someone as a proponent of Mussolini, when Il Duce himself said, “I am and shall remain a socialist and my convictions will never change! They are bred into my very bones.” Or as Lawrence Samuels wrote on “The Socialist Economics of Italian Fascism” at Econlib in 2015, “In essence, the economics of Italian Fascism was Marxist and syndicalist-inspired—and far more left-wing socialist than the economies of many current western nations that embrace a mixed economy of socialism, welfarism and unionism. Now, if only economists and historians would, even if belatedly, recognize that fact.”

(Updated and bumped.)

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