The results of the September elections produced a clear winner. The centre-right coalition (CDX) earned over half of the seats in both the Chamber of Deputies (lower house) and the Senate (upper house).
Over 12 million Italians voted for a socially conservative, liberal nationalist government to be in power. This government, however, will emerge facing pressing issues from the get-go. And the only certainty at the moment is that Giorgia Meloni will have all the responsibility to steer the ship in the right direction.
Since just over 63 percent of the electorate actually turned up to vote, setting a new low in Italy’s post-war history, the new government will have the duty to lift the spirits of the millions of Italians who chose not to cast their ballot – a mission Meloni has already announced in her election win speech is to earn back the trust of Italians in politics and institutions.
To do this, Giorgia will have to demonstrate her competence as a leader. If she pushes forward with the pledges made in her election programme, then that would be a good start. You can read her full manifesto here, but for now let me briefly summarise the most interesting proposals:
Responsible welfare spending
The CDX has managed to get elected without promising large government handouts. A rather popular election tactic in Italy. Instead, the CDX programme envisions the abolishment of the ‘Reddito di Cittadinanza’ (literally translated to citizenship income). This is the universal basic income scheme for low-income individuals and households that has already cost the Italian Government over €28 billion since its rollout 3 years ago.
Proposals from the right-wing coalition would see a reform of social welfare programmes. This would see targeted spending in specific areas (such as relating to solve the birth rate crisis), while shifting the priority from financial assistance to rehabilitation of inactive workers into the workforce.
Innovation and de-bureaucratisation
This is a pre-requisite to ensure the timely release of the almost €200 billion in NextGeneration EU funds promised to Italy.
Italy has been lagging behind the digitalisation process in public administration compared to other major European countries. So, pledges are being made to increase the competitiveness and long-term productivity of the economy. To do this, the coalition would increase infrastructure investments in the South (especially high-speed rail) and in the energy sector (with a focus on renewable sources and considerations being made for “clean” nuclear). The proposal to build the infamous “Ponte sullo stretto” (a bridge to connect Sicily to the Italian mainland) has also resurfaced.
One of the flagship policies proposed by the Italian right parties is the introduction of some form of flat-tax. The Lega proposed to have it as low as 15 per cent, but since Meloni’s FdI (Brothers of Italy) came on top, it should be around 23 per cent under its proposal.
At the same time, they plan to ease off some fiscal pressure that burden SMEs (small to medium sized enterprises), the lifeline of the Italian economy.
In the election programme, the coalition reaffirmed its commitments toward the Atlantic partnership. It’s fully on board to continue its support towards Ukraine to fend off the illegal invasion from the Russian federation. Similarly, it supports the European project of continued integration. I personally wouldn’t call FdI an “euro-sceptic” party. The FdI is pro-European Union, however it wishes the EU to be a federal union of independent nation states, not a supranational overreaching United States of Europe.
Overall, the CDX programme can’t really be considered transformative or creative. It isn’t much different from what the Italian right has been fighting for the past years. What has changed this time is that we have a fresh face leading the movement. Giorgia managed to bring her party from earning just under 2% of the vote in 2013, to 26% in September of this year.
Her biggest challenge will be to deliver on her promises. While the coalition managed to stay compact and united in the election campaign, the alliance has already been through some stress-tests. Former PM Silvio Berlusconi, leader of Forza Italia and junior coalition partner together with Slavini’s Lega party, has expressed his frustration with the missed election of one of his party members to the presidency of the Senate. Ignazio La Russa from FdI was elected instead.
Similarly, while Giorgia’s atlanticist and broadly pro-European stance, (she defiantly claimed that her party “does not have an anti-EU wing”), has eased feelings abroad, recent leaked audio tapes which caught Berlusconi spewing Kremlin propaganda has caused unnecessary tensions within the coalition. Nevertheless, the passage of power from Draghi to Meloni has been swift. Having taken only 27 days from the election day for the new government to form. Seemingly, the divergences within the right coalition have so far been tamed.
If Meloni manages to play her cards right and form a government, she has the number in parliament to deliver on her promises. This would be extremely positive for the country as it is in dire need of free market policies and localised government interventions to revitalise the economy. But for now, only time will tell if everything goes according to plan.