Opinion: Thanks Giorgia Meloni, democracy is on the downfall


Credit: Emily Roberge

WSPN’s Emily Roberge discusses far-right Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni’s victory in the 2022 Italian election and the impact it has on the world’s democratic institutions.

Emily Roberge

What should have been a joyful day in Italy following the election of the first female prime minister, has instead turned into a wake-up call. Fear for the LGBTQ+ community, who may be denied the right to same sex marriage. Fear for women, who may be prevented from the right to choice over their own bodies if abortions are outlawed. Fear for our world’s democratic institutions, which seem as if they could collapse at any moment.

History repeats itself. It’s been exactly 100 years since fascist dictator Benito Mussolini became prime minister of Italy in 1922. In order to secure power, Mussolini threatened violence, insisting that he would march on Rome. Months later, the fascists took control of Italy, rigging the elections. All of this factored into the rise of German dictator Adolf Hitler.

100 years later, no matter where in the world, everything feels on edge. Whether it’s the storming of the Capitol or the regressive Supreme Court rulings in the United States, the discriminatory rhetoric and policies towards LGBTQ+ individuals by the Polish government or the rise in Italy of the Mussolini-backed Brothers of Italy party, democracy seems to be on the drop-off around the world.

When I was younger, I naively thought that politicians put the people’s interests before their own. I idolized any politician who seemed genuine, and I believed the best in human nature. Now, I’m not so sure. Following Donald Trump’s hissy fit to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, where he begged him to find 11,780 votes and overturn the 2020 election, it became strikingly apparent how greedy politicians can be. I now have trouble trusting any politician, especially new Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni.

While Meloni has attempted to soften her image to please voters, let’s face the facts: her political party is rooted in neo-fascism. If Trump’s presidency taught the world anything, it is to expect the unexpected and prepare for the worst. When Meloni says that she will “govern for everyone” and “not betray the people’s trust,” this contradicts all of her other statements that are hostile towards minorities, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, immigrants and many others.

Four years ago, the Brothers of Italy party generated only 4% of the total vote. Now, following economic turmoil in Italy, the party won 26% of the total vote, the greatest percentage of votes by any political party in the Italian election. Take it from the experience of Americans, in four years, a lot can change.

As for Meloni’s platform, her most recent speech to Spain’s far-right Vox party sums up what she stands for. “Yes to the natural family, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology… no to Islamist violence, yes to secure borders, no to mass migration… no to big international finance… no to bureaucrats of Brussels,” Meloni said. In Meloni’s world, we might scrap any sense of progressivism and move back to the 1920s.

Not only is Italy one of the founders of the European Union, but it also is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). It’s hard to say exactly what Italy will now look like on the world stage, but, it’s safe to assume that Meloni will be siding with Hungary’s nationalist leader Viktor Orban. Like Hungary, Italy will be on its way to becoming an “electoral autocracy,” where the European Parliament will no longer consider the country a democracy.

Despite backing support for Ukraine, Meloni’s allies have connections to Russian prime minister Vladmir Putin. She urged the Italian government to stop supporting sanctions on Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, and she also congratulated Putin’s 2018 fraudulent election win. Now, this is unsettling, to say the least, given Putin’s Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Thankfully, Italy has a centralized government with checks and balances to prevent a fully totalitarian government. With 8,000 municipalities and firewalls and 20 semi autonomous regions, Italy has protections to prevent a complete neo-fascist overthrow.

Meloni’s victory is just another example of the increasing threat to worldwide democracy. It seems like each year, new countries are losing fragments of the democratic paradigm they once were. No longer do LBGTQ+, immigrant or even women’s rights, for that matter, feel guaranteed. Democracy is no longer a given. First it was the United States, now Italy, which democratic institution will begin to crumble next?