Matteo Salvini began his electoral campaign for the September 25 elections this Thursday night with an interview on the main edition of the Rai1 newscast, the first Italian public television channel. More than the words, he told the staging. The leader of the League appeared seated at a table, with the Italian flag behind him and a wall full of images of virgins and saints.
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This time he did not kiss the rosary, as he did closing rallies or even while the first government of this legislature fell in Parliament, the Executive led by Giuseppe Conte and supported by the 5-Star Movement and the League, which Salvini liquidated three years ago in another summer crisis. The message, however, was clear: after the experiment of the coalition of national unity that had supported Mario Draghi, the party returns to the barricades, with its workhorses, from the fiscal amnesty and the return to the “Christian roots”. ” from Europe, to the cries against the “invasion” of immigrants.
A few hours had passed since the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella announced, in a serious tone, the dissolution of Parliament after the end of the Government of Mario Draghi, to whose fall Salvini contributed, convincing Forza Italia, Silvio Berlusconi’s party, to follow him in the decision not to support the Executive together with the grillini.
Mattarella asked the parties for responsibility for the coming weeks, in the “best interest of Italy” and “despite the intense, and sometimes harsh, dialectic of the electoral campaign.” But Salvini is in a hurry. The polls have long predicted a significant drop in speculative support for the boom that, instead, marks the Brothers of Italy, the party that disputes the space of the extreme right. According to the polls, the formation led by Giorgia Meloni competes with the Democratic Party to be the most voted in the next elections, the first to be held in the autumn since the birth of republican Italy, after the Second World War.
Meloni, unlike Salvini, has kept a lower profile after the fall of the Draghi government. The first steps of these days seem to want to distance themselves from Salvini’s style, who has once again posted photos of migrant barges next to his face and the word “security” on the networks, although the “naval blockade” of the Mediterranean continues being one of the favorite slogans of Brothers of Italy. But Meloni knows that if there is someone who benefits from the government crisis, it is her. His party has remained in the opposition in the three executives that have existed since the beginning of the legislature, in 2018, and presents itself to the voters as the one that has remained consistent and firm while, according to Meloni, the others were dedicated to do “alchemies” in Parliament. “History has proved me right,” she said when the governing coalition collapsed on Wednesday.
The competition for leadership
That coherence is what Meloni also claims against his partners in the center-right coalition, promoted by Silvio Berlusconi when his party, Forza Italia, was dominant and not the third weakest leg, the role that now falls to him and that for years was that of Brothers of Italy. The far-right leader asks for the leadership if what the polls predict is confirmed at the polls. And, to mark the line, on Friday he said that he had proposed that “the meetings of the center-right should not be convivial occasions but operational meetings, in institutional headquarters” in a clear reference to food, in Berlusconi’s Roman villa, where he and Salvini decided the downfall of Draghi. He also wants the rules to define the lists to be established soon, given the suspicion that Liga and Forza Italia -which has suffered significant defections in recent days, with the departure of three of the party’s historical exponents- are allied in a cartel unique and find a formula that will take away the leadership of the coalition and, eventually, of a future government.
The road to get here has been long and Meloni is not willing to give up the ground gained after taking her party from 4 percent four years ago to 22 percent now in the polls. A result to which several factors have contributed, such as her position of support for Ukraine and NATO, at a time when Salvini, with strong ties to Moscow, played with ambiguity. She has also contributed work to soften her image, even taking advantage of the musical parody with a speech at a rally years ago and that became a success that spread like wildfire on social networks. Later, she became the chosen headline for his book I am GiorgiaI am Giorgia, a biography written when she was barely 44 years old.
Malaga’s speech in support of Vox
That speech was not very far, in substance and in form, from the one he gave in Malaga during the electoral campaign for the Andalusian elections in June, when Meloni was hoarse in front of a dedicated audience of Vox supporters, gathered to support the candidacy of Macarena Olona and who stood up to applaud her when she began an incendiary litany in which, with each sentence, the decibels rose a little more: “Either you say yes or you say no. Yes to the natural family, no to LGBT lobbies. Yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology. Yes to the culture of life, no to the abyss of death. Yes to the universality of the Cross, no to Islamist violence. Yes to secure borders, no to massive immigration…” and so on, until completing the arsenal of the classic argument of the extreme right.
It was an image that was far from the one that the far-right leader has tried to carve out in recent times and very different from the one that, for example, she had given in the same days in a long interview with the Corriere della Sera. “Anyone with a minimum of sense and intellectual honesty cannot seriously argue that I am a danger to democracy,” he said in response to a direct question about his origin from the Italian Social Movement (MSI), the party founded in 1946 by exponents of the fascist regime. .
Meloni began in politics in high school, in the ranks of the Youth Front, the youth section of that party, and then went through the entire history of the post-fascist right with Gianfranco Fini in Alianza Nacional (AN), with whom he became Vice President of the Chamber of Deputies at just 29 years old. Later, she joined the People of Liberty, Berlusconi’s political cartel, which had merged AN and Forza Italia, and from which she left to found Brothers of Italy. A story that the far-right leader vindicates, while she settles the controversy over the weight of the past whenever she can. “Those nostalgic for fascism are the useful idiots of the left,” she said a year ago, when a journalistic investigation revealed that exponents of her party met with radical groups with fascist symbols and Roman greetings.
Now he comes to the elections knowing he is stronger than his rival and partner Salvini, also because he does not have to face divisions in his party like him. The League comes out of the government crisis marked by the discomfort of the current of the party that asked for responsibility and not to end, especially in the way in which it was done, with the experience of the coalition of national unity. This current has in Giancarlo Giorgietti, the current Minister for Economic Development, its most prominent exponent. The chronicles of these days describe him as bitter and doubtful about the opportunity to stand for election again. A problem for the leader of the League, but also for the coalition, where the rivalry between the parties to the right of Forza Italia could lead to greater weakness ahead of the elections.
Salvini, for the moment, is trying to overcome the difficulties by recovering the same schemes that allowed him, back in 2020, to lead the polls with more than 30 percent, double what they mark now. On the wall full of religious images that he made in the background of his interview on Thursday, he hung precisely a 2020 calendar. But two years have passed and the scenarios have completely changed.