A few years ago, no one in Europe could have imagined in their wildest nightmares that they would vote for the return of right-wing extremists to power. This is especially true after what they experienced of an unprecedented collapse in the wake of two world wars that destroyed everything just to fulfil the fantasies of extremists.
After Sweden, the far-right made a breakthrough in Europe, with the victory of Georgia Meloni in legislative elections in Italy, where a party with roots in neo-fascism will have a chance to rule the country for the first time since 1945.
After playing the role of opposition to all successive governments since the legislative elections in 2018, the Brothers of Italy Party (Fratelli d’Italia), led by Meloni, imposed itself as a major alternative, and its share of the vote went from 4.3% four years ago to about a quarter of the vote (between 22-26%), thus becoming the leading party in the country.
The most prominent indicator of the rise of populist currents in Europe is the victory of right-wing parties in elections in some European countries. Although expectations were indicating that the Russian-Ukrainian war would lead to the predominance of the liberal human rights movement, as it is the most aggressive current against the populist governments to which Vladimir Putin belongs, the results were disappointing. The recent elections in Hungary and Serbia, then Sweden, and finally Italy confirmed the growth of this phenomenon.
In this increasingly right-wing atmosphere, the alliance of the Brothers of Italy with both the far-right League led by Matteo Salvini and the conservative party “For Italia” led by Silvio Berlusconi; holds almost the majority of seats in parliament.
This will lead to a real earthquake not only in Italy, as one of the founding countries of Europe and the third economic power in the Euro zone, but also in the European Union, which will have to deal with the policy close to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stressed that the EU has “tools” to punish member states that violate the rule of law and its common values. However, indicators suggest that slogans such as Europe for the Europeans, Europe First, and others that threaten the recognized democratic foundations in Europe since the end of the Second World War, will return.
Meloni, a supporter of Mussolini’s slogan “God, Fatherland, Family”, succeeded in making her party acceptable as a political force and raising issues that expressed the discontent and frustration of its citizens by remaining in the opposition. This is at a time when other parties supported the national unity government led by Mario Draghi. Therefore, whatever government will emerge from the elections, it is already facing obstacles on its way.
This next government will have to tackle the crisis caused by soaring prices at a time when Italy faces a debt of 150% of its GDP, the highest in the eurozone after Greece. In this context, Italy urgently needs the continuation of the aid distributed by the European Union as part of its economic recovery plan after COVID-19. On the other hand, it can side with Warsaw and Budapest in their battle with Brussels on issues of defending the national interest against European interests.
The victory of Georgia Meloni, the leader of Italy’s most far-right party since Mussolini’s era, raises questions about the future of democracy, which appears to be fading in Europe.
Historically, experiences have proven that external threats, especially existential ones, support nationalist tendencies and enhance the influence of right-wing currents as an alternative force capable of lining up in the face of danger and confronting the threat.
In the recent period, for example, and with the repercussions of the Corona pandemic on the world economy and at the heart of it is the European economy, as well as with the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian war and the danger it poses to the security of the old continent, the increasing influence of right-wing forces in Europe, amid calls for self-closure, and the escalation of hate speech against everything foreign.
In light of political crises such as immigration, asylum, and international conflicts, and economic crises such as lack of energy supplies and the high cost of living, in addition to the identity crisis created by globalization and the new system of managing the world, a central question imposes itself, which is: Why do the ballot boxes veer to the right in major European capitals?
Dr. Hatem Sadek – Professor at Helwan University