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Italian Elections: Don’t Count Out Democracy Just Yet

27 September 2022

By Paola Ambrosino, CEO SEC Newgate Italia

Before commenting on the recent general elections in Italy, it must be stated that Italian democracy is not at risk. This is clear after the highly admired national unity government, led by Mr Mario Draghi outside of any electoral support, finished its course.

The risk to democracy is also nonexistent if one looks at the way the winning coalition, undoubtedly of right/conservative nature, has attempted to distance itself from the fascist party of the prewar era (that, incidentally, is still banned by the law).

Furthermore, the pivotal role of a shared love for freedom, acting as a strong connective layer in Italy’s socio-economic fabric, which appeared to convince voters, also demonstrates that democracy is not at risk.

As far as results are concerned, the most relevant conclusion to be drawn is that the public offered their votes to the two parties that made up the opposition, though in different forms, during the previous government.

These were Fratelli d’Italia, lead fiercely by Giorgia Meloni, from the outside and Movimento 5 Stelle, of former prime minister Giuseppe Conte, from the inside – the latter causing the crisis that led to the new elections being called.

Commentators lead us to question how such a solid and serious government as the one which is now ending, failed to convince and reassure a large segment of the population (over 40% of the voters) to re-elect them.

But this 40% felt under constant threat from the energy crisis and, despite the funds from Next Generation EU, saw Europe as an enemy rather than an ally. 

This failure by the previous coalition, largely a communications one, has to be attributed to a general failing of the parties which made up the last government.

Moderate and left parties must now get a solid grip on topics that are more relevant and connected to the needs of the citizens, especially younger and less affluent ones, and work on marketing their political offer with a clear voice and more straightforward messaging.

As far as governability is concerned, beyond the simple mathematics of a full majority of the right-wing coalition in both Houses, there are some critical elements that are still too complex to fully understand just yet.

The winning coalition looks less coherent than the previous one in some respects (which is still ruling in some Regions) and differences are pretty evident. For example, the leader of the relative majority party, Giorgia Meloni, got a striking success but totally lacks any government experience.

The chasm between one strong, yet inexperienced, party and other members of the coalition that emerged from the general election might generate tensions. It is hard to make predictions on how these will emerge as the coalition develops.

But what we do know is, the makeup of the parties in government are totally new and will take time to gel., whilst concerns about the stability of the upcoming government are already solid.