An Italian right-wing coalition is heading for electoral victory but tough talks on forming a government, experts say.
A right-wing coalition is almost guaranteed of a handsome victory in Italy’s elections on Sept. 25, but divisions between the parties over issues including whether to renegotiate the conditions of European aid mean that talks to form a government will not be easy, political experts told MNI.
The right-wing bloc grouping Brothers of Italy, the League and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia have a clear lead of about 15-20 percentage points in polls, and Italian electoral law favouring coalitions should help them win between two thirds and four fifths of the roughly one third of parliamentary seats allocated according to a first-past-the-post electoral system, professor of the history of political institutions at Luiss University Lorenzo Castellani and University of Bologna political scientist Piero Ignazi told MNI. They should also between them take a majority in the rest of the seats, for which they will compete as individual parties under a proportional system.
But while the right has so far maintained coalition discipline, in contrast to the centre-left Democratic Party which has been unable to clinch an alliance with the populist Five-Stars Movement, this could change once the results are announced, when the right-wing party likely to win the most votes, Brothers of Italy, is expected to try to get its leader Giorgia Meloni appointed prime minister. Until recently a fringe party with roots in Italy’s old fascist movement, Brothers of Italy is set to receive more than 20% support but lacks officials with experience, putting it at a disadvantage in talks with the League and Forza Italia, which both have track records in government, Ignazi said.
Meloni, who has spent much of the campaign trying to improve her international profile and show herself to be a trustworthy partner for Brussels and Washington, is likely to face resistance in her bid for the top job, and her appointment is not a done deal, he said.
While the three parties have agreed a 15-point programme including measures like a flat tax on income, Ignazi pointed out that differences between them are marked, “especially in the foreign policy” front and over how to deal with the EU. Brothers of Italy and the League, led by the nationalistic Matteo Salvini who was previously the country’s most successful right-wing politician before the Ukraine war raised questions over his gestures of support for Vladimir Putin, want to renegotiate the terms of the EUR200 billion in aid granted under the NextGenerationEU programme, but Forza Italia disagrees.
“Salvini is clearly eurosceptic, Meloni is looking for a middle ground of supporting Ukraine while being harder with the EU, and Berlusconi is now a convinced pro-European,” Ignazi said.
European officials have privately expressed concern about the new Italian government, which will replace the administration of former European Central Bank president Mario Draghi, and Brussels will be determined to ensure that Rome keeps to its commitments with the EU. (See MNI: Inflation Strengthens Hawks' Resolve In EU Debt Talks)
Tension is sure to arise within a coalition which contains heterogeneous political figures with “centrist to post-fascist profiles,” but which will have to face urgent problems like the energy crisis from day one, Castellani said.
Italy’s 2017 electoral law, known as Rosatellum, tends to boost winning coalitions, helping them to get at least 50% of parliamentary seats, or as many as 60% if they have a clear lead over the second-placed grouping, Stefano Ceccanti, a constitutional expert and legislator for the Democratic Party told MNI.
But the size of the right coalition’s majority could depend on how many people vote at the elections, with a high turnout of over 80% of the electorate helping it win seats, whereas below 75% would tend to favour the left, with its historically solid base of support, Castellani said. Another challenge on election day could come from the anti-EU and anti-vaccine party Italexit, which could eat into the right-wing vote if it manages to garner 4%-6%, Ignazi said.
Right-wing unity could also be difficult to maintain as the election date draws near, with trends favouring both Brothers of Italy and the Democratic Party, likely prompting the League and Forza Italia to try to differentiate themselves before the vote, said Castellani.
Winning, as is possible, at least 66% of the seats in both chambers would allow the right-wing coalition to alter Italy’s constitution, but none of the political experts saw that as likely, given that the country’s next government is likely to be fully occupied with the energy crisis and other challenges.