President De Luca, I’m that bitch Meloni. How are you? — with this words Meloni greeted Vincenzo De Luca from Partito Democratico, a centre-left governor of Campania, on her visit to Caivano on 28 May to deliver a speech at the local sports centre opening ceremony. – I noticed that Meloni was keen to communicate her new and true identity, and we obviously cannot help but agree —  replied De Luca a day after. According to him, the visit to Caivano was meant to be a break from honouring the victims of Italian neo-fascism on the occasion of the anniversary of the Strage di piazza della Loggia, the 1974 fascist attack in which eight people were killed and more than 100 injured. Without going into psychologising of the incident, which became somewhat popular in Italy, the whole affair shows that Meloni, enjoying an excellent relationship with Ursula von der Leyen in Europe, in Italy still has to fight stubbornly. Her image outside her homeland, a portrait of a political prodigy, has little to do with the reality on the ground. 

Judging by popularity in the native country, Meloni is now the third popular politician in Europe, two places behind Donald Tusk, with 39% support. Not a bad result for someone who has been in office for two years, especially in Italy, which has had a record number of governments in Europe since the end of the Second World War, with ever-changing prime ministers and cabinets. However, the performance of the individual political parties in Meloni’s coalition is less impressive. The combined support of the Fratelli d’Italia, Lega and Forza Italia, is 45%. Fratelli d’Italia, Meloni’s own party, score around 27%, and both smaller right-wing allies do not add more than 9% each. 

Only one thing hit Meloni hard enough to affect her polls, which had been stable up to that point since the 2022 elections. That were the farmers’ protests. Although they had ceased in countries such as Germany and France (even though they left their political mark), in Italy they were in full force until April. 

Meloni tried to ease tensions: her government outlawed lab-grown meat last year, although it is not clear if this complies with EU internal market regulations. As Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia and its adversary, the League, fight for the same wedge of votes ahead of the European election, the parties within the ruling coalition have been engaging in a blame game around the farmers’ protests. At the same time they were debating whether to U-turn some austerity measures created by long gone technocratic governments, with the last one’s of Draghi. 

Restoring tax advantages for struggling farmers and diesel subsidies are measures the administration is thinking about implementing. In an attempt to curry favour with farmers, Meloni highlighted her part in the EU’s decision to give up on attempts to reduce pesticide use. Now, even closer to elections that will be the biggest test so far for the ruling coalition, Meloni is going even further. 

Right now, she is making a direct and frontal attack on the Green Deal.

Fratelli d’Italia’s programme for the European elections next 8 June does not hide it. Quite the opposite: it clearly warns in full populist tone that the party aims to dismantle and rewrite the European agreement that laid the foundations for the ecological transition. We read the following in the programme:

The eco-follies of the Green Deal written by the European left condemn us to an unhappy degrowth. We want to change these rules and create the conditions to safeguard the environment by making our companies more sustainable and competitive.

Even if it is totally wrong to attribute the drafting of the directives to the European left, as they were, in fact, carried out by center-right Ursula von der Leyen, supported by a large majority that goes from the centre-right to the centre-left uniting popular, socialist and liberal parties, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the mood of the Italian populus, which is shifting right. In this context, Meloni just wants to safeguard her right flank. 

Matteo Salvini, whose party’s support is steadily cannibalised by Fratelli d’Italia, is trying to out-right Meloni by adopting an increasingly radical stance. The party that had 34% of votes in 2019, now scores a miserable 9%, or even 8%, in polls that are more favourable to Fratelli d’Italia. Salvini’s radicalization has a face. It is the face of one of the most popular recent authors in Italy, general Roberto Vannacci, a serving army officer and an author of a book — Il mondo al contrario, the Upside-down World. The book so racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic, that even the defence minister from Fratelli d’Italia, Guido Crosetto, referred to its content as “ravings”. At the same time, as always when nazi-leanings of the Italian society flushes out, Meloni made no comment.

Currently, Vannacci is standing in all five of Italy’s Euro-constituencies, which is perfectly legal, with a clear chance of being elected in one of them. Nevertheless, even his adoption by Salvini haven’t changed the position of Lega in the polls. 

The losses of Salvini are really his own only fault. His prominent pro-Putinist stance, an ego completely out of this galaxy and idiotic comments made here and there were meant to kill his once powerful endeavour. His party is not only bleeding because of Meloni, who felt the scent of political blood, but also thanks to the cunning moves of Antonio Tajani. Thought to become a bankruptcy administrator of the once omnipotent Forza Italia after Berlusconi’s death, he revealed again his political talents. He is currently keeping the party at 9-10 percent while serving as foreign minister. 

What’s more, if Meloni’s bet to ally with von der Leyen against Draghi, pushed by Macron, succeeds, Tajani will be able to trumpet up a success as a minister: important positions in the new European Commission will be filled by Italians of Meloni’s choice. And one of the new important Europeans will be himself. Tajani, after all, is a former president of the European Parliament. 

The opposition split between the centre-left Partito Democratico, the populist Five Star Movement and various centrist groups, such as Azione, United States of Europe, Italia Viva or Green Left Alliance, all of them polling around 2-4%, poses no real threat towards right-wing hegemony. 

The weakness of the opposition is mainly due to the collapse of the idea of the so-called Campo Largo, i.e. an alliance between the Partito Democratico and the Movimento Cinque Stelle. The first of the parties wants to and win back power over Italy thanks to the voters’ of the second one, while the second one, with Conte as its leader, is only interested in saving his own political career. While PD has some political ideas, right now, it has a problem with articulating them without accusing Meloni of being fascist, which does not impress anyone in Italy. Giuseppe Conte, on the other hand, has never had any ideas. He just wants to be present in politics, and cultivate his protest electorate. Thus, he is not willing to become just a vassal of PD’s leader Schlein, who doesn’t know how to format her message and to strike above what she’s scoring now. 

The question rather is not who will win, but how she will win in this elections. It is still not sure whether Meloni will be able to cannibalise Lega, partnered with Forza Italia under Tajani, thus, thereby cementing its power in the peninsula, which would allow it to quietly get on with the business of governing Europe in the new hand. And it is at the European level that Meloni seems to have serious opponents: Ursula von der Leyen and Marine Le Pen on the right, and Macron, in alliance with Mario Draghi in the center. The Italian prime minister will be, together with them, one of the main actors in the battle for the future of the continent.

With a growing economy and Italy’s increasing importance in the European, but also global politics, the Italian right can rest assured. Tomorrow will be good for them.

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