How the Italian right is conquering all the leftist strongholds
On October 27, Matteo Salvini, leader of the League, together with his allies Giorgia Meloni from Brothers of Italy and Silvio Berlusconi — yeah, he is 83 and still around — earned an outstanding victory in Umbria. The election was a historic undertaking, since the region had been left-wing for 50 years. Moreover, the defeat seems even more crushing due to the opponents’ situation: even though the Five Star Movement and the Democratic Party were in fact running together, joining forces against the rising sovereignism, they got 37.4% against a tremendous 57.5% of the right-wing coalition.
Although the defeat should be considered almost painless because of the small number of constituents (little more than 700,000), the political value of this electoral race should not be underestimated. There are, in fact, some insights to be gained from this.
The political meaning of the vote
The vote in Umbria was against the yellow-red government. It cannot be disputed that the second premiership of Giuseppe Conte, who managed to shape a government between the Five Star Movement and the Democratic Party, disappointed many people. In fact, supporters from the League and Brothers of Italy were extremely loud while marching in Rome against the government on last October 20. Moreover, the League is leading the poll numbers with its 34%, while Brothers of Italy gained their unexpected goal of 10%. Consequently, the numbers depict a situation where almost the people’s majority wants a profound change.
The party on the witness stand: the Movement and the Democrats
The Five Star Movement’s downturn was stronger than projected. Analyzing the numbers, it was impressive how the yellow party lost its popularity in the region. In the legislative election (2018), the Movement gained 27.5%, in the European polls (2019) 14.6 %, and 7.4 % in the regional race.
Although the regional elections, from a historical point of view, do not represent the best battle ground for the Movement, losing 20% popularity sounds like a wake-up call. Many Italians believe that the Five Star Movement has betrayed its own values, not only by submitting to the League when they were ruling together, but also by allying with the Democratic Party after Matteo Salvini started the crisis in August.
Notwithstanding Italians truly have a bad memory for politics, interestingly they still remember that the Five Star Movement and the Democrats were trading insults ever since the firsts got seats in Parliament.
The real culprit here has only one name: the Democrats. In fact, they completely underestimated Matteo Salvini and his ability to appeal to people’s gut instincts. They were completely worthless, being consumed by their inner divisions — the last one was former prime minister Matteo Renzi and his new party, Alive Italy — and lacking any track of being a left-wing party. Nowadays, they find themselves a part of an “elite party,” which people tend to prefer only because it is “the least bad.”
The winners: Matteo Salvini and Giorgia Meloni
The right-wing line up can conquer the leftist strongholds in the next elections. When the League was born in 1991, nobody was expecting such a widespread consensus, considering the original aim of the party: the secession of the North (Padania) from the rest of Italy. Nowadays, Matteo Salvini has found a tight political base in all types of Italians, from the old Northern secessionists to the Southern populists.
Interestingly, among these people there is something in common: a complete disappointment in the traditional party system (Democratic Party and Forza Italia) and a sense of treason from the Five Stars Movement, blamed for giving up its anti-system nature. If you add a never-ending electoral campaign, often carried out with surgical Facebook posts, well, that’s the easy recipe to become the most popular party in Italy.
While the League can outshine its opponents in the political scene, it is worth highlighting the rise of Giorgia Meloni and her party, Brothers of Italy. Up to this point, she has never been touched by changes of directions, remaining political consistent. Constituents have showed a degree of appreciation for that and are rewarding her attitude. We will see when the party “get its hands dirty” to govern.
Is the Italian right invincible?
Last but not least, everyone knows that the only way to see Matteo Salvini and Giorgia Meloni getting out of our way is to give them the premiership. Their programs and promises are at times unrealistic or even, according to the political opponents, they would lead to a national catastrophe. Moreover, standing at the opposition is easier. While they pretend to be “anti-compromise”, they might find out that governing a country is a serious task that requires a solid background and cutting more deals than you expect. Ruling is damaging and unpopular. For more information, see Luigi Di Maio and the Five Star Movement.
The elections in Umbria, despite being limited to a small and outlying region, was a battle ground that will contribute to the direction of Italian politics. Surely, the traditionally left-wing region of Emilia Romagna will be the cornerstone in the whole political agenda, since another victory for the League might seal the fate of the government.