Last week, Italian President Sergio Mattarella dissolved parliament and announced new snap elections that will take place on the 25th of September. This comes as Italy’s main coalition collapsed, pushing the Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, to resign.
Italy faces many challenges in the coming months, as the Ukraine war causes significant energy issues in Europe combined with rising inflation and a looming global recession, these elections will determine the country’s ability to face these threats.
With many far-right and euro-skeptic movements on the rise in Europe’s third-largest economy, namely the Brothers of Italy, currently leading the polls with other right-wing allies, the Italian elections might cause significant disruptions for the European Union during a time of crisis.
This political upheaval comes amid increasing polarization that caused major alliances and coalitions to collapse. Many parties, including the Green Party of Italy, seek new and more sustainable partnerships to increase their chances in September.
Mario Draghi: A story of temporary compromise
Draghi was brought in as a unifying figure in an increasingly divided Italy. The centrist Prime Minister was backed by a loose coalition of parties spanning the political spectrum. From left to right, parties supported his premiership to maintain stability during the pandemic as new elections couldn’t take place due to sanitary measures.
However, when health measures were lifted, new issues, such as the Ukraine War and the subsequent energy crisis, further divided the parliament, raising doubts about the coalition’s future as participants across the aisle were not keen on cooperation.
The former Prime Minister, who is not affiliated with any party, is also the former European bank chief who stabilized the Euro during the European sovereign debt crisis. Seen as a technocratic figure and backed by the public, he was brought in to face the COVID-19 pandemic. Italy was particularly affected, and the government’s mishandling of the health emergency led to the sacking of Draghi’s predecessor, Giuseppe Conte, in early 2021.
Despite the country facing numerous emerging crises, the Five Star Movement, a powerful populist party, the far-right League party, and the center-right Forza Italia, all significant forces in Italian politics, refused to participate in a confidence vote in the Senate last Wednesday. This signaled their unwillingness to cooperate with other parties, causing Italy’s main coalition to collapse.
New Coalitions forming as the far-right leads polls
Recent polls show that Italy’s far-right party, Brothers of Italy, is leading with 23% of the vote. Along with their right-wing allies, the League party and center-right Forward Italy party, their powerful coalition is projected to govern after the elections.
Brothers of Italy, a previously unsuccessful party, had a boost in popularity as they were one of the only parties to oppose Draghi’s government from the beginning benefiting from their opposition status.
The far-right in Italy is often associated with climate skepticism and preserving the status quo. Their ascension to power might threaten Italy and the European Union’s ability to face the climate crisis just as the continent faces record-breaking heatwaves and wildfires.
“The next election must deal with the real crisis, the climate crisis. Summer has turned into a real hell, glaciers are melting, desertification is advancing, and rivers have turned into sand corridors. In the face of this dramatic situation, where a certain politician not only closes his eyes but denies the effects of the climate crisis, such as this right-wing candidate to govern the country, we need an alliance for innovation that puts social justice and climate justice at the center.” Green Europe co-spokespeople Angelo Bonelli and Eleonora Evi said in a recent statement, illustrating the importance of the upcoming election. “We need to save our country,” they added.
To counter the powerful right-wing coalition, the greens propose an alternative urging left-wing parties to form their partnership.
“To put social justice and climate justice at the center,” the Italian Greens announced an alliance with Sinistra Italia (Italian Left), a small left-wing party with minor to moderate success in the country.
The left-of-center Democratic Party is expected to garner 23% of the vote, roughly the same amount as Brothers of Italy. Still, because the latter has allied with other prominent right-wing parties, it will most likely govern unless the Democratic Party can form alliances to tip the scale.
However, due to the short time frame to election day and the divisive nature of Italian politics, the capability of forming a new left-wing coalition with enough popular support is still unclear.
The failure to secure a left-wing alliance will propel the far-right to power, which will cause significant disruption in European politics as the continent grapples with multiple existential crises.
Italy’s right-wing parties have ties with Russia threatening the EU’s unified response to the Ukraine War. For instance, Silvio Berlusconi, the head of Forza Italia, is a long-term friend of Russian president Vladimir Putin, visiting each other in their holiday homes during the 2000s when Berlusconi was prime minister. Additionally, The League party has a formal cooperation agreement with Putin’s party, United Russia.