Voters in Italy will go to the polls on Sunday for a quick general election that is expected to result in a government led by a far-right party. This would be a significant political upheaval for a nation already experiencing continuing economic and political uncertainty.
Prior to September 9 (when a blackout period began), opinion polls indicated that a right-wing coalition would gain a majority of seats in the reduced lower and upper chambers of parliament.
The alliance is chaired by Giorgia Meloni's far-right Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy). It includes three additional right-leaning parties: Matteo Salvini's Lega, Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia, and a smaller coalition member, Noi Moderati.
The Brothers of Italy party stands out and is anticipated to receive the biggest proportion of votes for a single party. According to poll aggregator Politiche 2022, it has been receiving about 25% of the vote, greatly outpacing its closest right-wing ally, Lega, which is predicted to receive approximately 12% of the vote.
On the center-left, the Democratic Party, led by former Prime Minister Enrico Letta, is projected to earn around 21% of the vote. In contrast, its coalition partners (the Green and Left Alliance, More Europe, and Civic Commitment) are projected to achieve single-digit shares.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi resigned in July after he could not unify a fractured political coalition behind his economic plans. The quick election is a result.
Who is the "Brotherhood of Italy"?
Fratelli d'Italia's leader, Giorgia Meloni, might become Italy's first female prime minister if the party wins the election. She would also be the first far-right leader in Italy since the ascent of Benito Mussolini a century ago.
Fratelli d'Italia's president in the eastern Italian province of Le Marche, Carlo Ciccioli, told CNBC that the party's stratospheric popularity had "spread to the rest of Italy" and that it was now prepared to rule.
"At this time, we are likely to be the largest party in the country; however, this will not be proven until Sunday's election, not by any surveys. Why do I believe that Fratelli d'Italia will succeed? Because our leadership is of substance. Giorgia Meloni is culturally and politically savvy, said Jouma Bercetche.
Fratelli d'Italia was founded in 2012, although it originates in Italy's neo-fascist movement of the 20th century, which formed following the death of fascist leader Mussolini in 1945.
Fratelli d'Italia was founded by a faction of Berlusconi's People of Freedom (or PdL) party, which included Giorgia Meloni. Its name is derived from the first lines of the Italian national hymn.
Since then, the party's popularity has increased and surpassed the populist party Lega. It has resonated with segments of the public worried about immigration (Italy being the destination of many migrant boats crossing the Mediterranean), Italy's relationship with the EU, and the economy.
Analysts assert that the party's decision not to engage in Draghi's recent broad-based alliance contributed to its popularity.
This distinguished Meloni "as an outsider within the political system and as the lone opposition person," according to a recent note by the co-president of a risk consultancy, Wolfango Piccoli.
Origins and procedures
Fratelli d'Italia has frequently been labelled "neo-fascist" or "post-fascist" in terms of its policies, which recall the nationalist, nativist, and anti-immigration position of Italy's fascist era.
Meloni, for her part, claims to have purged the party of fascist members, stating in the summer that Italy's right-wing had "relegated fascism to the dustbin of history for decades."
To say the least, the party's beliefs are socially conservative since it opposes homosexual marriage and promotes traditional "family values"; Meloni stated in 2019 that she aims to preserve "God, country, and family."
Fratelli d'Italia has altered its opposition to the euro in Europe but advocates EU reform in order to make it less bureaucratic and less important in domestic politics. One of its slogans encapsulates its strategy: "A Europe that does less, but does it better."
On the economic front, it has conceded to the centre-right coalition's position that the future administration should reduce sales taxes on some commodities to help the cost of living crisis, and it has stated that Italy should renegotiate its Covid recovery funds with the EU.
Fratelli d'Italia has been pro-NATO and pro-Ukraine and has supported sanctions on Russia, in contrast to the Lega, which has been equivocal about these measures.
However, the party has also been amicable with one of the EU's most prominent adversaries, Hungary's President Viktor Orban, backing the autocratic leader after a European Parliament decision ruled that Hungary could no longer be considered a democracy.
Politicians on the centre-left are concerned that a government led by Meloni might alter ties with the rest of Europe. Enrico Letta, the leader of the Democratic Party, told CNBC's Steve Sedgwick that Italy has two alternatives in Europe: remaining in the top tier of economies and governance, or being "relegated."
The first option is to maintain our standing in the 'first division.' The first division refers to Brussels as well as Germany, France, and Spain, the major European nations and founders like us.
The second alternative is to be demoted to the second division with Poland and Hungary, staying with them against Brussels, Berlin, Paris, and Madrid,' he remarked at the Ambrosetti economic event in early September.
He stated, "I believe it would be disastrous for Italy to chose the second division."
Meloni has been labelled as a political chameleon by several experts, who have noted her shifting political positions over time.
"There is... a question as to whether Meloni will head the government: the one who lauded Hungary's Viktor Orban or the one who supported Mario Draghi's anti-Russia stance?" wrote Teneo's Wolfango Piccoli in a September note.
"The sovereigntist who advocated for Italy's withdrawal from the euro or the comforting leader who adopted a more traditional stance toward Europe throughout the election campaign?
"The populist who advocated a naval blockade in the Mediterranean to halt the unlawful flood of immigrants... or the more responsible conservative leader who advocated a European solution?" he said.
Being Italy (a country that has infamously had 69 administrations since World War II), some instability and volatility are anticipated in the wake of the election, not least because disagreements within the right-wing alliance's FdI, Lega, and Forza Italia are likely to emerge.
"Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi will be challenging coalition partners, seeking to restore prominence following a (possible) electoral defeat by emphasizing policy differences, like fiscal austerity, pensions, and Russia sanctions.
Soon after the election, policy disagreements and personal rivalries will surface, producing turmoil and weakening the efficacy of the new leadership," Piccoli noted.