Far-right leader voted in

Italian elections provide a warning for our own

As a result of a recent snap election with historically low voter turnout, Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy party will become the Prime Minister of Italy. Meloni will be the most far-right Prime Minister since Benito Mussolini lost power in 1945. Her perceived connection to Mussolini doesn’t stop there. The Brothers of Italy was founded in 2012, and stems from the Italian Social Movement, a party that carried on Mussolini’s facsist ideals after he lost power. Her victory is perhaps the most startling example of the recent resurgence of far-right ideology in European politics experienced by countries such as France, Sweden, Poland and Hungary. 

The election results didn’t come as much of a surprise; the polls leading up to the election had indicated a shift to the right in the voting base, and voter apathy and inaction has been on the rise in Italy, leading to overall less votes (which typically benefits the right). Though it was to be expected, the outcome is notable and serves as a warning sign for Americans to keep their faith in participation in democracy.

Though Meloni isn’t necessarily a fascist herself (though many are referring to her as such), she doesn’t seem to want an authoritarian government and isn’t threatening democracy, and she still refuses to rid her party of its historically fascist optics. For example, the party still uses the motto “God, Family, Fatherland”, which is known as a fascist phrase. The Brothers of Italy also still have an element of the Italian Social Movement logo in their flag

This is an issue that more Americans should be paying attention to; it gives us an opportunity to look at the global political situation from an outside perspective, seeing as extremist politics seem to have become normalized in our own nation. We should be disgusted by this situation, as Meloni is attacking human rights, her policies are racist and anti-LGBTQ, and she regularly engages in fear mongering and spreading mass paranoia. 

All of these policies serve to undermine democracy and consolidate power away from the people.

One of the most concerning pillars of Meloni’s campaign is the unrelenting attack on the LGBTQ community, which spews messages like,“Yes to the natural family, no to LGBT lobbies!” Her party is openly against marriage equality and gay parents adopting children. She repeatedly accuses unspecified groups of attacking her identity as a white, Christian woman.

Another foundation of her campaign is thinly-veiled xenophobia. She promotes the theory of ethnic substitution (also called the Great Replacement or Replacement theory), repeatedly criticizing the EU for allowing “uncontrolled immigration, the invasion of Europe, and the project of ethnic replacement of European citizens wanted by big capital and international speculators”. This closely echoes a statement Mussolini made when in power: “The entire white race, the Western race, could be submerged by other races of color that multiply with a rhythm unknown to our own”.

Her proposed policies serve to make life even harder for immigrants in Italy, who already face discrimination, such as the fact that most are barred from legal employment. These proposals include denying citizenship to children born in Italy with foreign parents, enacting a naval blockade to stop immigrants from North Africa, and stopping the use of charity rescue boats. 

Meloni also has racist double standards when it comes to immigration. For example, she wants to completely end immigration from Libya, a country whose population is experiencing human rights abuses (unfair detainment, deaths from landmines, a struggling economic situation, etc.) as political turmoil continues following the civil war ending in 2020. At the same time, Meloni has expressed support for Ukrainian immigrants, as she sees them as “real immigrants” and “compatible with our own national community”. 

Again, one major factor in Meloni’s victory was the historically low voter turnout. Currently in the US, Republicans are aggressively restricting voter rights in multiple ways: making it harder to vote (refusing to make voting day a national holiday so that federal employees can miss work to vote, trying to pass strict laws banning voters from having food and water while in line, restricting the use of mail-in ballots, etc.) and de-legitimizing voting results. All of these policies serve to weaken democracy and consolidate power away from the people. Action cannot wait.

The call to action could not be clearer: participate in democracy. We are rapidly approaching one of the most unpredictable midterm elections in recent history. Typically not much more than 40% of eligible Americans vote in the midterms. In a democratic system, the moment that the people stop paying attention to those in power, or  stop caring, or start to lose hope, is the moment when rights start to be taken away and extremists start to gain more power. We’ve seen the beginnings of this at home, and now we’ve seen another example abroad. Meloni gives us a reason to hold up a mirror and examine our own dire political climate, and it is crucial that it doesn’t go unnoticed.