Updated Sep 25, 2022 - World

Italy set for hard-right turn

Matteo Salvini (left), Silvio Berlusconi and Giorgia Meloni. Photo: Riccardo Fabi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A coalition of three right-wing parties is on course for majorities in both houses of the Italian Parliament, provisional results from Sunday's general election show — setting the stage for Italy's most conservative government in decades.

Why it matters: The result puts Giorgia Meloni, who leads the Brothers of Italy, in pole position to become prime minister. Her coalition also includes The League, led by far-right firebrand Matteo Salvini, and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia.

  • Meloni, who would be Italy's first female PM, is seeking to reassure EU leaders that she'd govern as a center-right pragmatist, stand by Ukraine and spend EU recovery funds responsibly.

Yes, but: She has a history of defending far-right leaders like Hungary's Viktor Orbán and her party has fascist roots. It's a matter of debate whether her front-runner status says more about her own drift to the center or the Italian public's willingness to vote for the extremes.

What they're saying: "This is a night of pride for Brothers of Italy, but it is a starting point, not a finish line," Meloni said before a crowd of supporters.

  • "If we are called upon to govern this nation, we will do so for all Italians, with the aim of uniting the people, of exalting what unites them rather than what divides them," Meloni said at a briefing. "We will not betray your trust."

Breaking it down: Brothers of Italy won just 4% of the vote during the last general election in 2018. It will now be easily the largest party with 26% of the vote, according to projections based on votes counted from 63% of polling stations.

  • Overall, the block has won at least 43% of the vote.
  • Unlike the League and Forza Italia, Brothers of Italy refused to join a unity government formed last year by technocrat Mario Draghi after the previous government collapsed.
  • Draghi resigned in July after losing the backing of some coalition members, including The League and Forza Italia.
  • Sunday's turnout was around 65%, down from 73% in 2018.

What's next: Meloni will not necessarily take the top job for herself, and the government formation process often moves slowly.

What to watch: While Salvini and the 85-year-old Berlusconi have both come under scrutiny for their past praise of Vladimir Putin (just last week, Berlusconi said Putin had simply wanted to put "decent people" in charge in Kyiv), Meloni has backed sanctions on Russia and weapons exports to Ukraine.

  • The next government will face significant economic headwinds and an energy price crunch over the winter. Recent history suggests it might not last all that long.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni.

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