After decades of progressive and liberal agendas, it is time for a changing of the guard in Italy. Not since the time of Mussolini has this type of party risen to power in Italy. Certain countries are becoming very polarized after years of forward thinking, and on Sunday, Italy proved that it is one of them by voting Giorgia Meloni, a member of Fratelli d’Italia, as the first female prime minister in Italy’s history. She is also the first right-wing leader to come to power since Benito Mussolini one hundred years ago. The country is understandably divided, and this will likely lead to further polarization.

There is a New Sheriff in Town

Sunday’s election featured a historically low turn-out, with only 64% of the population voting, many Italians claimed to stay home as a protest against secret deals made by the government. The center-right coalition had 44% of the parliamentary vote, with Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party getting 26%. The League of Matteo Salvini won almost 9% of the vote, with Forza Italia taking around 8%. Additionally, the center-left Democratic Party had around 26%, and the 5-Star Movement which was the biggest vote-getter in 2018 Parliamentary elections, had nearly a 50% reduction in votes in this election. Meloni is interested in forming a coalition with two smaller right-wing parties, the anti-immigrant Lega (League) and the center-right Forza Italia.

There is some question about the differing views of Meloni in her tenure. There is no doubt, however, that the party is socially conservative, with their touting of “family values” and opposition to gay marriage. In 2019, Meloni even said that her mission was to defend “God, homeland and family.” With her victory, women’s rights and the rights of the LGBTQ community are in jeopardy.

Who is Fratelli d’Ialia?

Fratelli d’Italia is a relative newcomer to the political scene in Italy. This party is often described as “neo-fascist” or “post-fascist”, leaning back to the past for nationalist and anti-immigrant tendencies. Meloni, however, says that the party has “handed fascism over to history for decades now.”

Carlo Ciccioli, the president of the Fratelli d’Italia in an eastern Italian region of Le Marche, explained that the party’s popularity has skyrocketed, and said they were ready to lead the country.  “At this moment, we’re likely to be the largest party in the country — which can only be confirmed by the vote on Sunday, not any polls. Why do I think Fratelli d’Italia will make it? Because our leadership is one of substance. Giorgia Meloni is prepared both culturally and politically,” he told CNBC’s Joumanna Bercetche.

The party itself began in 2012, with roots in the 20th century neo-fascist movement which followed the death of Mussolini in 1945. It gets its name from the first words of Italy’s national anthem. The new party has grown exponentially over the populist party Lega. Two major talking points for the party are immigration, with many migrant boats making their way across the Mediterranean, as well as the economy and EU.

New Policies

There is some question about what will come next for the citizens of Italy. Fratelli d’Italia is in favor of reform in the EU, with their slogan ‘A Europe that does less, but does it better.” Meloni has been pro-Ukraine and pro-Nato, unlike her Lega peers. Meloni understands that she needs to do something to help the economy, such as cutting sales taxes to alleviate the trouble with the extreme spike in the cost of living, as well as making a move to take another look at the Covid recovery funds with the EU. Working with the EU, especially the primary countries, is also an important goal. Unfortunately, the party has close ties with Hungary’s President Viktor Orban, who is no friend of the EU. Some Italian leaders are worried that this will impact Meloni’s interest in independent media, free courts, and civil rights. This connection makes EU leaders nervous, although Meloni does keep her focus with the EU on Russia’s war on Ukraine, even sending weapons to Ukrainian forces.

Center-left politicians are worried that Italy’s relationship to the rest of Europe would change under Meloni, and that this would lead to a loss of their status.  Enrico Letta, the head of the Democratic Party, wants to see his country stay in the top tier of the relationships.  ″[The] first option is to keep our position in ‘first division.’ First division means Brussels and Germany, France, Spain, the big European countries, the founders, like us. {The] second option is to be relegated in the second division with Poland and Hungary, deciding to stay with them against Brussels, against Berlin, against Paris and Madrid,” he said.

Emanuele Fiano, a member of the Democratic party, echoed those sentiments, saying, “We have to cooperate with Europe and the European community,” He added, “The problem in Italy is that the center-right and right-wing doesn’t want to continue with this support to European policy. This would be a very hard problem for Italy and the Italian economy.”

As for Meloni, she can play the game differently depending on her audience, and is seen as a chameleon to many in the Italian government. Which side will she play? Will she move towards Europe and its policies or away? Guido Caldiron, an Italian journalist who covers fascism and the far right is concerned about the new regime.  “It’s not fascism but it’s still a threat,” Caldiron says.

For the people of Italy and around the European community, the election of Meloni signals a changing of the guard that will have a definite effect on the ideals of the country. With a more conservative approach to the issues of our day, those on the margins of society may find themselves out of luck.