Italian elections confirm a move to the right

Italy went to the polls on 25 September 2022 in what was a confirmation of a victory of the right-wing coalition headed by Fratelli d'Italia [Brothers of Italy] and its leader Giorgia Meloni.

The 25 September 2022 election ushered into power a right-wing government which will be led by Giorgia Meloni and her party Fratelli d'Italia. This government which will include as coalition partners, Matteo Salvini from the Lega and Silvio Berlusconi and his Forza Italia will ruffle feathers in Europe and the world in the coming period. The election itself was unique in a number of ways. It interrupted the Mario Draghi government of 1.5 years after being challenged by coalition partner, the Five Star Movement.

Italian Parliamentary Election 2022: Results

Draghi eventually lost the support of the centre-right ultimately making it impossible to continue with this legislature. The President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, was forced to accept the resignation of Mario Draghi and call an election - one of the shortest electoral campaigns in decades and moreover throughout most of Italy's long hot summer.

In addition, the election saw a new and slimmer parliament reduced to 400 seats in the House of Deputies and to 200 seats in the Senate. Equally interesting was the reliability of the polls and the exit polls, very different from the past elections. The winner, Giorgia Meloni, Italy's first female Prime Minister yet a person who has little time for women's issues. Her party styled on the previous Movimento Sociale of which she was a member in the early 1990s, was established as late as 2014 after Meloni parted ways with Berlusconi.

Giorgia Meloni (Fd'I), Silvio Berlusconi (FI) e Matteo Salvini (LEGA)

To the surprise of some, Meloni in the last election in 2018, polled a paltry 4 per cent and very few saw much prospect in this party. Only four years later, in 2022, Meloni finds herself at the head of Italy's largest party and now destined to be its Prime Minister. Meloni and her party, it should be noted, refused to be a part of the Draghi government grand coalition and stood apart attacking most of its deliberations. Standing on a very conservative anti-immigration platform she equates refugee and migrant arrivals with "“crime and prostitution". She is forceful in pronouncing her Christian "“traditional" family values and adding objects to gay adoptions. Aware of her national responsibilities, she has toned down some of the rhetoric especially against the European Union which will be a testing time for both sides. Gone are the threats of leaving the Euro, however in a coalition with Salvini and Berlusconi one has to expect that many European Union deliberations will be contested in Rome. Equally concerned are the markets (stock and financial) which are subject to external interest and public debt and its repayment remains a constant in any Italian government. In seeking to counter these concerns she has sought to calm everybody though it remains to be seen if this will work.

Giorgia Meloni (Fatelli d'Italia/Italian Brotherhood)

The key themes to be addressed by the Meloni incoming government will be how the government can stimulate the economy and soften Italy's rising cost of living, its negotiations with the European Union on the Resilience Fund, how immigration will be managed and what changes there might be to Italy's support to Ukraine in current conflict.

The election has also exposed other interesting developments. The expectation that the Democratic Party (DP) would perform well did not occur. A vote of 19 percent for the party is a worry to them after a decline of many points from the last election. This was especially the case when DP felt that they would pick up the decline in support of the Five Star Movement. That also did not happen. The Five Star Movement managed to claw its way back to 15 percent of the vote especially from its strong endorsement in the Italian South.

What was also evident was the declining interest that Italians had in these elections. Only 63 percent of the voting population actually voted, down 9 percent from the 2018 elections. While voting in Italy is not obligatory, elections have historically seen high levels of participation. This appears to be changing.  

The Italian vote abroad which counts some 4.7 million eligible voters has also been reformed with a reduction in parliamentarians from 18 members to the current 12 (8 for the House of Deputies and 4 for the Senate).

The vote by Italians abroad has again indicated a counter trend from that of Italy with majority support given to the Democratic Party coalition. In the electorate of Africa, Asia, Oceania and Antarctic(AAOA), in both the House and the Senate, the Democratic Party were again confirmed. What however was a standout was the decline in voting interest in this college. It declined from 28% in 2018 to 22% in 2022. Australia which represented a significant portion of that college vote (around 50%) only registered a turnout of 18 percent.

While these declines were not reflected in other colleges throughout the world, this trend in AAOA must be alarming to the supporters of expatriate voting especially in Australia.