Conservative Wins Italian Election
In a bid to right their economy, Italians have elected a conservative. This could be evidence of a European move toward right-wing policies.
From The Wall Street Journal. Italians elected a right-wing coalition to lead the country, choosing an untested leader who will confront Europe’s gathering economic downturn and energy crisis resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Giorgia Meloni is expected to become Italy’s new prime minister after her Brothers of Italy party won the biggest share of the vote in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, according to projections based on counting nearly half of the votes for Italy’s Senate. She will require approval from junior partners in her coalition to assume the role.
Ms. Meloni’s party won 26% of the vote for the lower house of Parliament, while her wider right-wing coalition won nearly 44%, according to preliminary results. Their largest opponent, the center-left Democratic Party, won 19%. The first projections had shown similar percentages.
“The situation in which Italy and the European Union find themselves is a particularly complex one,” Ms. Meloni told supporters in a brief victory speech early Monday, in which she called for “serenity and mutual respect” between Italy’s rival political parties after a fractious campaign.
Noting the record-low turnout of just 64%, Ms. Meloni said many Italians felt alienated from the country’s political institutions and vowed to work to rebuild people’s trust in their democracy. “The goal we set for ourselves as a political force is to make Italians proud of being Italian again, proud of waving the tricolor flag,” she said.
Italy’s electoral system, which strongly favors parties that run as part of a coalition, helped the right to an ample majority in both houses of Parliament. The Italian election is the first big test of the European Union’s political cohesion as it confronts Russia’s attempt to redraw the continent’s post-Cold War order. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s restriction of natural-gas deliveries has sparked an energy-price crunch that, combined with other inflationary pressures, is expected to push much of Europe into a recession this winter. …
The incoming right-wing government will face difficult decisions over how to protect Italian households and businesses from sky-high prices for electricity and natural gas. Italy’s parlous public finances allow limited scope for fiscal largess. EU governments have so far struggled to agree on a collective intervention to tackle energy costs.
Italy’s high government debt of roughly 150% of gross domestic product, combined with its weak long-term growth record, makes it vulnerable to bond-market selloffs if investors lose confidence in the soundness of Rome’s fiscal policies, and dependent on the European Central Bank to keep its bond yields stable. ECB support has typically been conditional on Rome following cautious budget policies and enacting economic overhauls aimed at improving growth.
Aware that any adverse reaction by bond investors could further hurt Italy’s economic outlook, Ms. Meloni has sought to reassure financial markets that a government led by Brothers of Italy would seek to maintain fiscal discipline. That constraint could leave limited scope for the radical tax cuts that some in the right-wing coalition want.
Like elsewhere in Europe, energy bills and the cost of living will be the most urgent issues for Italy’s next government. Ms. Meloni has vowed to act quickly to help Italian households and businesses, but also to avoid a spending spree that further raises Italy’s significant national debt. …
Some EU officials have viewed Ms. Meloni’s rise with trepidation, fearing that Italy could become a less cooperative member of the bloc at the same time it faces severe economic and security crises. But many observers in Rome say Brothers of Italy is aware of how limited Italy’s room to maneuver is, given its economic fragility and need for good relations with other major actors in Europe and the West. …
For Italy, the EU’s third-biggest economy, Sunday’s results mean that the right would take power for the first time since 2011, after more than a decade of eclectic, often short-lived coalition governments. …
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(Excerpt from The Wall Street Journal. Photo Credit: Getty Images)
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