Norms and Values
Weakness of the Italian Political Class: How Will the ‘Right’ at the Head of Italy Behave?
Valdai Club Conference Hall, Tsvetnoy Boulevard 16/1, Moscow, Russia
List of speakers

On October 5, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion titled “Rightist” Italy: What to Expect From the New Government for Russia and the World?”.

The discussion moderator Oleg Barabanov, Programne Director of the Valdai Discussion Club, noted that even during the election campaign, the current ruling coalition and the victorious Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy), for all their respectability and parliamentary experience, were under heavy media and even political blow in many European countries, as well as from representatives of the EU up to the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. Against this background, Barabanov invited the experts to discuss why the right-wing coalition nevertheless came to power, what is the possible development of Italian politics and what awaits the relationship between Italy and Russia.

Elena Maslova, senior researcher at the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, pointed to the tense and antagonistic nature of the pre-election struggle in Italy, which brought to mind the post-war Italian parliamentary elections of 1948. Various labels were hung on the right-wing forces, they were accused of neo-fascism and pro-Russian orientation. Discussing the reasons for the victory of the party of Giorgia Meloni, Maslova emphasized the weakness and fragmentation of the left forces and the powerful demand for change in society. She also added that the Brothers of Italy program actively appeals to such a long-absent concept in Italian political discourse as the national interest, creating the image of Meloni as a kind of “protective mother” of the country. “For Meloni, Italy’s membership in the EU and NATO are instruments of national interest, and not vice versa,” Maslova stressed.

Vittorio Torrembini, Honorary Consul of Italy in Lipetsk, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Association of Italian Entrepreneurs in Russia GIM UNIMPRESA, noted that the victory of the coalition led by Giorgia Meloni was quite expected. Italy’s electoral system, in principle, provides great benefits to coalitions, he said, and the left was split, although it won a little more votes overall than competitors. He also called the predominance of leaders, not programs, an important aspect of Italian political life. Voters constantly hope that the new leader will be able to change the situation. All parties, except for Meloni’s, were part of the Draghi government, so she received all the dissatisfied votes. The paradox is that this does not necessarily mean agreement with the Brothers of Italy program. The electorate votes did not so much for a certain program as against what the previous government’s mistakes. At the same time, the accusations against the party, from Torrembini’s point of view, look frivolous: Meloni’s positions in the economy, foreign policy, and so on are, in fact, dictated at the European and American level, at the level of NATO. So any concerns should not be related to Meloni’s personality, but to the course itself. Italy needs more independence in the face of the European Commission, NATO and financial markets, said the representative of the Italian business community.

Igor Pelicciari, professor at the University of Urbino (UNIURB), commenting on the subordinate position of foreign policy on the Italian political agenda, noted that until 1992 Italy actively acted as an international mediator, especially in the Balkans. But then its status at the international level began to decline. Despite its long diplomatic tradition, it has come to terms with its secondary political role and has begun to disguise it with a pro-European choice. At the same time, Italy’s trade turnover is growing, but this is divorced from the foreign policy of Rome. Turning to Russian-Italian relations, Pelicciari stressed that for the past twenty years, Italy has been the only country in the EU in which pro-Russian forces were present in every parliament. However, friendship with Russia has always been a tactical element for Italian political leaders, and one should not expect that Rome’s policy towards Russia will change in the short and medium term. This is due both to the weakness of the Italian political class and to Italy’s position in the Atlantic structures. However, it is possible that the rhetorical intensity between Moscow and Rome will decrease somewhat.