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Parliamentary elections in Italy: Shift to the right in the midst of instability

29 September 2022
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By Azim Parker

As expected, Giorgia Meloni and her ultra-reactionary Fratelli d’Italia party emerged victorious in the September 25 election. She will therefore be at the head of the next government. The Fratelli d’Italia, whose members still refer positively to Mussolini’s fascism, received 26% of the vote (up 21.6% on 2018). The entire right-wing bloc, which will now form the government, accounted for 43.9% (Lega 8.8%, Forza Italia 8.1%). Due to the undemocratic electoral law, he thus has an absolute majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

For Italian workers, this is another disastrous piece of news. They will have to fight against further massive social cuts and the hundredth tax cut for the capitalists – in line with all previous bourgeois governments, by the way. The future scenario looks just as terrible for women, queer people and migrants, who will suffer an unprecedented attack on their fundamental rights. In the election campaign, Meloni railed against the right to abortion, an alleged LGBT lobby, and called for naval blockades against refugees from Africa.

Apart from the headlines and the declarations of victory, however, this election result is not without contradictions, which clearly indicate that the situation is anything but stable.

The new majority and the reactionary turn

The election was also marked by a huge abstention. On 25 September, only 64% of eligible voters decided to go to the polls – 9% less than in 2018. This is the lowest voter turnout since the republic existed, and this undoubtedly shows a deep credibility crisis of the bourgeois institutions.

Looking at the absolute number of votes, the right-wing coalition, consisting of Fratelli d’Italia, Lega and Forza Italia, received the same number of votes as in 2018 (about 12 million). Voters who voted for Salvini or Berlusconi in 2018 now turned to Giorgia Meloni because Fratelli d’Italia was the only party that did not support Draghi’s cabinet. But this also means that enthusiasm is likely to wane more and more once Giorgia Meloni is forced to continue the same policies of past governments.

The country is in a deep economic crisis. The state is massively over-indebted – and the right-wing government, despite all the criticism of Brussels, needs 200 billion euros from the EU to stabilise the country – at the expense of the workers and the poor.

The political differences within the new majority are certainly not to be ignored. This applies in particular to the attitude towards Russia. Although the coalition program reaffirms the support of NATO and “Western values,” it is clear that, unlike Fratelli d’Italia, the Lega wants to take a “flexible” stance toward Putin and advocates the end of sanctions and arms shipments to Ukraine. Considering that the Lega is considered the big loser with 8.8%, it is not difficult to guess that Salvini could use the disagreement over the war in the future to regain appeal.

Democratic Party and Five Star Movement

The Democratic Party (PD) lost about 800,000 votes and with 19% it once again remained below the 20% mark. The party supported the social attacks under Draghi’s cabinet. For example, the reactionary education reform alienated teachers, a traditional voter base of the PD. Its claim to present itself as a credible alternative to the right-wing coalition has been thwarted by the party itself in recent months, when it has governed together with the Lega. All these factors played an important role and contributed to the defeat. Not to mention the disastrous election campaign, mainly because, after various attempts, it was impossible to form a coalition with the liberal parties of Calenda and Renzi. All this undoubtedly created a great deal of confusion, which helped to cast the votes for other parties.

On the other hand, the Five Star Movement is the real surprise of this election. Although it lost more than half of the vote (17.3%), it performed better than most had expected at 15.3%. After all, hardly any other party had behaved as implausibly in the last legislative period as the one that had once competed against the entire system. Originally born of a movement against all parties, it initially ruled alone.

This populist movement signed, among other things, Salvini’s criminal “security decree” against migrants, was complicit in the deadly pandemic policy, the cuts in health systems and the increase in military spending. All this led to a collapse in the polls. Despite all this, the party managed to prevent disaster by focusing its election campaign on defending the basic income, as opposed to the right-wing coalition that called for its abolition. This strategy has been relatively successful, especially in the South, where unemployment is particularly high. As a result, the five-star movement was able to survive with 15.3%.

The decline of the left continues…

The result of the left-wing organizations confirms the deep crisis of the workers’ movement, which has been going on for years, to which these leaderships also contributed significantly.

A total of three organizations of the left and so-called radical left competed in this election:

– Sinistra Italiana (Italian Left). In a joint list with the Greens (Alleanza Verdi e Sinistra) it reached 3.6%. As far as its role in the election campaign and future parliament is concerned, it is nothing more than an appendage of the PD, whose main demand is simply the resumption of dialogue with the Five Star Movement.

– The Communist Party, a Stalinist organisation led by former MP Marco Rizzo, joined the Italia Sovrana e Popolare (sovereign and popular Italy) list. This was a grotesque hodgepodge of fascist conspirators and reactionaries. This list clearly showed how low the Stalinists can fall. The result was also very poor in this case – 1.2% – and hopefully means a devastating blow to Marco Rizzo’s popularity.

– Rifondazione Comunista (RC) has been hiding for years behind the Citizens’ List, which displaces every trace of class content, in a desperate attempt to regain a seat in parliament. This time the experiment was called Unione Popolare (Popular Union), led by the former mayor and prosecutor of Naples, de Magistris. The list is characterised by its call for constitutional fidelity of all parties and pale progressive demands. At the end of the election campaign, de Magistris tried unsuccessfully to reach an agreement with the Five Star Movement. Unione Popolare eventually reached 1.4%, confirming RC’s lack of perspective for its left-wing reformism.

Dramatic

In this scenario, the future prospects are simply dramatic. The bottlenecks in the energy supply and the constantly rising inflation alone threaten thousands of companies. Around 20% are considered to be at risk – and thus the jobs and future of millions of workers.

In this situation, a united front of all wage earners and oppressed against the attacks of the right-wing government and capital is now needed, both at the company, trade union and political level. But the outcome of the elections also shows that the working class needs a revolutionary party as a political alternative to the theatre of bourgeois politics, to the right as well as to all other openly bourgeois and bourgeois workers’ parties.

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