The Right Caresses Victory In Italy At The Hands Of Giorgia Meloni: "Who Wants a Weak Italy Fears Us"

“Giorgia, Giorgia, Giorgia”, they shout in the square. The leaders of the center-right coalition further to the right than ever are finally on stage, almost an hour later than expected. There has been time for Piazza del Popolo to get a little more crowded. It will not fill up completely. It is not a puncture but it is not overflowing as on other occasions. But, and this is what counts now, it is above all a square given over to Brothers of Italy, where, in a sea of ​​flags bearing the logo of Giorgia Meloni’s party, the banners of the rest of the coalition disappear. And so, until Meloni’s entrance on stage, the others all seem to be opening acts. If a victory will come out of the polls next Sunday, it will be hand in hand with her, hand in hand with the leader of the ultra Brothers of Italy party.

The first to speak is Silvio Berlusconi. When his image appears on the two big screens by the side of the stage, the immediate effect is one of Return to the future. But there is no time machine that returns Forza Italia to what it was. They present him as “the most well-known and respected Italian statesman in the world. The man who founded the center right.” He jokes: “He had never heard anything like that.” He speaks as if he were still, at 85 years old, the leader of the alliance and not the minority partner of a coalition under the pull of Brothers of Italy. But that he knows it, it shows when he takes the speech to the extreme speaking of “uncontrolled invasion of illegals” and “freedom against communism.”

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“Long live Giorgia, long live Brothers of Italy”, he shouts closing his speech. She takes two seconds to add: “Viva Matteo and Viva la Liga. Viva Forza Italia and Viva la Libertad.” He sounds like surrender to the evidence. There have been no public polls for two weeks, but the clandestine polls circulate through the chats of the parties and journalists and are an open secret. The forks vary a lot, and there may be some surprises, but the clear fact is that the center-right will win to the extent that Meloni does. The roles have been reversed. Four years ago Meloni reached just over 4 percent. Now it is Forza Italia that could be little above these figures. And then there is the League of Matteo Salvini, the man who led his party to over 34 percent in the 2019 European elections and became convinced that he would be prime minister. Today he sees before his eyes the sorpasso on Meloni’s right, which could double him in the number of votes, while his formation would obtain a result below –and quite a bit– what he garnered in the 2018 generals.

When his turn comes, Salvini, who crossed the square to the stage making dozens of selfie with the militants, it no longer has the brilliance of its best days. He appears surrounded by a group of young people with posters that reproduce the slogans of his campaign. One reads: “Stop the canon of the Rai”, the tax that is paid to watch public television. “Stop the invasion,” says another. He has always been his favorite. It is the part of his speech where he is most comfortable, when he attacks immigrants, in the rhetoric of “us and them”, the poor Italians and those who arrive in Lampedusa. He no longer says “Italians first”, he does not kiss the rosary like other times, but when the bells begin to be heard from the nearby Church, he does not miss the occasion: “Welcome the chimes. And let no one enter our country to want to change our way of thinking. “I’m ready to do all of this,” he promises. “As prime minister if the Italians want it. As a humble servant of the state, if the Italians want it that way.”

The plaza applauds him but it has nothing to do with the warmth they show Meloni. “Thank you for this magnificent square,” she begins. “Giorgia, Giorgia,” they repeat. She laughs. She is comfortable. It is her square. She repeats point by point what she has said in dozens of interviews, in dozens of meetings. It’s a rehearsed script and this time she controls herself. She is not hoarse as in the Vox rally, that image that she tried to erase throughout the electoral campaign. She doesn’t need it either. “They have said that we are scary. Who are we afraid of? Do I make you afraid?”, she asks. The answer is taken for granted. “Those who want a weak Italy fear us.”

“They say that people have to cover their noses and vote for the left. I see an air of freedom here,” he repeats. It is what theirs want to hear. Many have waited hours to hear her speak. There are a few young members of the party youth. Some have come from other cities. Like Alessio Moroni, 26, an international relations student, who has moved from Terni, an hour and a half by car from here. He says that he helped open a headquarters for the youth section of the Brothers of Italy in his city, an old red bastion where the workers of the steel mill, which dominated the life of the place, now vote to the right. “We are happy because many young people pushed by the national boom are getting closer. The times are ripe for cities like Terni to be free from the hegemony of the left.” In Terni, in fact, “the hegemony of the left” ended years ago and the City Council won the League in the last municipal elections. But for Moroni it is necessary to go a step further. “Because the cultural substratum is still hegemonized by the left. We have to go towards a majority of the cultural field. We are closely linked to our values, the protection of the nation and of the Italians, without dictate from the outside. It does not mean to close us but to say what we think with the other international competitors, especially in a globalized world like this.”

When asked what he thinks when they talk to him about fascism, he replies: “Sterile accusations. Within our party there is no room for nostalgia. It is something that happened a hundred years ago, which has had causes of formation in a certain historical context, impossible to repeat, nor desirable”. Do you then recognize yourself in the antifascist values ​​of republican Italy? “We recognize ourselves in the values ​​of democracy that was established after World War II. We do not recognize ourselves in the anti-fascism that labels any form of response to leftist thought as fascist.” Benedetta, 20, and Margherita, 18, think like him. Except for this last one, the first two did not come from a right-wing family. Rather the opposite. “My father worked in the steel mill and he was on the left and he still votes for the left. It’s the game of democracy,” says Moroni. Benedetta’s father for years belonged to the CGIL left-wing union, then in 2018 he joined the League and will now vote following the example of his daughter, who joined the Brothers of Italy at the age of 16. “The values ​​of the country and the family belong to me. It is something that I have felt very strongly. The rhetoric of globalization has always seemed cloying to me, which forces us to deny who we are.”

It is the majority feeling in this square to which Meloni promises a stable government, for five years, “whether the left likes it or not”, the government of a “serious, strong and internationally respected Italy”. He will repeat that the center-right is united and that united they will govern. The divisions are there but they don’t have to be seen.

And yet the dynamics of the electoral campaign have made it clear that the competition was also internal. In his eagerness to consolidate an image of moderation, a reassuring and sensible image, Meloni has come out on more than one occasion to repeat that the sanctions against Putin’s Russia work, while his partner-rival Salvini said that they harmed those who imposed them. . When the leader of the League asked for more spending and more debt, she replied that it is something that the country cannot afford… They have been thrust without shouting but constant, and that heralds turbulence for the day after the elections. Forza Italia repeats that they are and will be the guarantee of a moderate government, a guarantee for Brussels that Italy will not take paths other than those of a “liberal, Christian, Europeanist and Atlanticist” center-right, as Silvio Berlusconi said the day after the vote of the resolution in the European Parliament that decreed that Hungary is no longer a full democracy, in which the Brothers of Italy and the League voted against together with Vox. “If these gentlemen, our allies, whom I trust and respect, are going to take other paths, we will not be there,” warned the tycoon and former prime minister.

But Berlusconi plays the part of the gregarious next to the extreme right that he boasted of having “normalized”. He remembers a speech from 2019. “We have made the League and the fascists enter the Government in 1994, we have legitimized them,” he said before his militants. “Without us they would be an extreme right, which would not be capable of winning and surely of governing.” It was 2019 but if something fails in this country it is memory.

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