On May 31 2020, Fratelli d’Italia (FdI), reached in the polls 16.2 per cent, a remarkable achievement for the party founded by Giorgia Meloni, Ignazio La Russa and Guido Crosetto in December 2012. In the following months, the growth of FdI did not stop reaching 18 per cent, thus exceeding the 5 Star Movement, approaching the Democratic Party and, narrowing the distance from the League, becoming the third Italian political force.
The path of FdI has been one of a slow political rise (with a sharp acceleration in recent months) characterized by difficult periods. However, the leadership of Giorgia Meloni the party has become an established political force – even though the current political landscape is far different to when the party was created.
Today’s politics is based on strong leaders, a reality that becomes vitally important in obtaining and consolidating consensus, especially during national elections.
This leader dominated system started with Silvio Berlusconi in 1994 but has developed in recent years with the advent of new technologies and the power of social media. The rapid pace of change has led to many commentators talking about the advent of the “Third Republic”. Certainly, the national rise of the 5 Star Movement, at the international level: the election of Trump in 2016 and the Brexit vote, are all symptoms of a new upheaval for our local politics.
The Covid pandemic, the Lega-M5S government and subsequent formation of the new PD-Movimento 5 Stelle government are all highlighting the new page that has opened in Italian politics.
Fratelli d’Italia is different from other major parties due to its relationship to its leader, Giorgia Meloni. Except for Forza Italia and Berlusconi, only the Brothers of Italy has been indistinguishable from its leader since foundation. The League moved from Umberto Bossi to Matteo Salvini, the Democratic Party has seen multiple leaders despite its relatively short history, and over the years the role of Beppe Grillo in the 5 Star Movement has publicly become increasingly marginal as Di Maio has come to the fore.
Giorgia Meloni, on the other hand, has held a leading role since the foundation of FdI, and her leadership – which has never been questioned – is today stronger than ever.
It is no coincidence, therefore, that the approval ratings of Giorgia Meloni, is one of the highest compared to other Italian leaders and is still growing – along with the party’s popularity. Indeed, in a recent EMG-Acqua poll, the leader of FdI came first with 39 per cent approval, overtaking Prime Minister Conte.
After the dissolution of the National Alliance and the birth of the PDL in 2009, the Italian right began to break apart into several different parties.
Over the years, the majority of those who were part of the National Alliance are getting closer to FdI but it would be incorrect to define Giorgia Meloni’s party as a new AN because FdI has managed to attract voter groups that never previously voted or joined a right-wing party.
The risk is that, once a significant consensus has been reached and stabilized, there will be an attempt according to an old (and never dormant) vice of the left to build a right in its own image and likeness, to distort the identity of the party.
Giorgia Meloni, mindful of previous Right-wing experiences, has never distorted her political message in the name of “correctness” or “pivoting to the centre”. She knows that this would risk compromising what has been her strength – her strong convictions and refusal to apologise for her beliefs.
Conservative is a term that, even in the Italian right, still arouses heated debate and is often used inappropriately leading to confusion with other political-cultural currents and demonization. Meloni is starting to change this and her prominence is only growing. Earlier this year, she became the Italian woman to lead a European party family when she was elected President of the ECR group. This is a great success for Italian conservatives and the revival of their fortunes is largely down to her leadership.
Once again, it is possible to understand what it means to be conservative in contemporary Italy. Giorgia Meloni and her party are leading the line and fighting for key values that underpin conservatism, Country, family, Italian and European identity, Christianity and freedom.