Breakthrough election leads to international responses

Following the recent victory of Italy’s Fratelli d’Italia, also known as the Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni is poised to become Italy’s first female prime minister. 

On September 25, Italy’s national elections saw the right-wing party capture 26 percent of the vote, a sharp increase from the roughly four percent the party earned in the 2018 elections. After that election, the Brothers of Italy formed a center-right coalition alongside other right-wing parties, including Lega and Forza Italia. 

Thomas D. Williams, the Rome Bureau Chief for Breitbart News and a former research fellow with the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, told the Rover, “this was a triumph for democracy. The people of Italy spoke out forcefully, handing Giorgia Meloni and her center-right coalition a decisive victory and a clear mandate.”

At 45 years old, Meloni is a dedicated mother and conservative figure. In a speech to the 2019 World Congress of Families that has been widely circulated online in recent weeks, she stated that in the liberal world, “I can’t define myself as Italian, Christian, woman, mother. No. I must be citizen x, gender x, parent 1, parent 2. I must be a number. Because when I am only a number, when I no longer have an identity or roots, then I will be the …  perfect consumer.”

Although Italian President Sergio Mattarella has yet to nominate a candidate for Prime Minister, Meloni stands out as the most likely nominee. Associate Professor of Politics at the University of Dallas and permanent fellow at the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, Gladden Pappin, spoke with the Rover about the election: “Although Italian governments are notoriously unstable, Meloni’s victory is a great sign of hope for the recovery of Europe.”

“In the case of Fratelli d’Italia, the party has been almost entirely created by Giorgia Meloni’s political entrepreneurship,” Pappin said. “It reflects traditional, conservative, Catholic values that are under threat in modern times. It speaks for families and workers, including many who have historically voted for left-wing parties.”

Despite the left-wing’s dominance in European politics, Williams noted that “people are speaking out more and more about their right to self-government and the need for national sovereignty to be respected.” Though critics of Meloni focus on her euroscepticism, she, as Williams notes, “has no aspirations for Italy to withdraw from the EU,” despite sharing “the concerns of the middle and working classes that Italy has ceded too much of its sovereignty to Brussels and the European Union.”

Should she assume the mantle, she would be the first right-wing prime minister in Italy since WWII—leading to backlash from the media. The Associated Press recently ran a headline attributing “neo-fascist” roots to the Brothers of Italy, and the New York Times refers to the coalition as the “hard right.”

“It was astonishing to see how left-wing media all walked in lockstep following the Italian election, employing the same buzzwords like ‘far right,’ ‘’Mussolini,’ and ‘Fascism’ in an attempt to frighten people,” Williams said. He went on to add that former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi rebuked these phrases, calling them “fake news.”

Such rhetoric has been heard even here at Notre Dame, most recently at Caffè Europa—the Rome Global Gateway Spotlight Series, co-sponsored by the Nanovic Institute and the Center for Italian Studies. On Tuesday, October 4 the second event of the series, “Italian Political Elections From an International Perspective,” featured European Politics spokesperson for the Christian Democratic Union in the German Bundestag, Gunther Krichbaum and lecturer in political science and international affairs at John Cabot University, Eszter Salgó. 

According to Krichbaum, Italians want policymakers to focus on resolving problems and fulfilling their needs. Though Krichbaum noted the “deep frustration of ordinary people towards politics” which he identified as a contributing factor to the Brothers of Italy’s victory, he continually described the right-wing party as “extreme right” and as bearing the “flame of fascism.” Salgó, on the other hand, hesitated to equate the recent results with a “reemergence of fascism.”

Furthermore, in light of the right’s recent victory, European Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen faced questions while in the U.S. on September 22. “My approach is that whatever democratic government is willing to work with us, we’re working together … If things go in a difficult direction—I’ve spoken about Hungary and Poland—we have tools [to work together],” von der Leyen said in response to questions at a Princeton University event.

Pappin shed more light on how to interpret the “difficult direction” and “tools” that Leyen referenced: “Conservative governments like those in Hungary and Poland have faced a kind of weaponized use of power by Brussels to punish them for pursuing a more conservative path.” He continued, “Public allegations about corruption and rule of law issues are mostly a cover for this agenda of raw power: the left-liberal, woke Brussels elite want to hurt conservative countries and prevent them from setting an example for a different path in Europe. The Italian victory breaks through this.”

Madelyn Stout is a junior majoring in political science and english with minors in ESS and theology. She’s a voracious reader who hails from Havana, Florida. When she’s not convincing people of Florida’s greatness, engaging in political banter, or reading 19th century literature, you can find her around the lakes when it’s sunny. If you want “Florida Man” stories, contact her at

Photo Credit: Matteo Gribaudi/Imago