As part of the West, Meloni’s govt must cooperate on policy toward Russia

Italy has an important role in responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a member of the Group of Seven advanced nations and the European Union, with which the new Italian administration must maintain unity.

A coalition of three right-wing parties won the Italian general election. The Brothers of Italy, which has its roots in a neo-fascist party, has become the largest party, and its leader Giorgia Meloni is widely expected to become the new prime minister of Italy.

After the general election, Meloni sent a message to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, assuring him that “you know that you can count on our loyal support.” During the election campaign, Meloni pledged continued sanctions against Russia and support for Ukraine, a commendable stance.

The new government is expected to be a three-party coalition with the League and Forza Italia, both of which are considered conciliatory toward Russia. The challenge for Meloni will be how to coordinate policies within the coalition.

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who heads Forza Italia, is known to have a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The question is whether Meloni will be able to exercise her leadership and maintain a hard-line stance against Russia.

The key to this will be economic stability. If energy prices continue to soar and prices of goods continue to rise along with public dissatisfaction, Berlusconi and others in the administration will have a stronger say, which could lead to an easing of sanctions against Russia.

In fact, outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi lost support within his ruling coalition after public dissatisfaction arose with high prices, forcing him to announce his resignation. Italy cannot allow political turmoil to escalate further.

Meloni has set forth policies to combat high prices, including a large tax cut, and measures to support child-rearing. She has also expressed a willingness to take a cooperative stance with the EU, as Italy has received massive support from the bloc’s COVID-19 recovery fund.

It is important for her to take a pragmatic approach and emphasize cooperation with Western nations and Japan among others, while at the same time trying not to fall into the trap of benefit-payout policies that disregard fiscal discipline.

The Brothers of Italy party is regarded as far-right because of its antiforeignism stance that opposes immigration. In Europe this year, far-right parties of this ilk have made great strides in parliamentary elections in France and Sweden.

As economic disparities expand and more people find their lives difficult, voters may be increasingly turning to political forces previously regarded as unorthodox in the hopes that such forces can bring about change.

This trend could lead to the rise of populist politics. Established political parties are under pressure to revamp themselves.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 2, 2022)