Interview about the elections in Italy

Nothing we haven’t seen before

, by Claudia Bothe

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English]

Nothing we haven't seen before
The parliament in Rome: On September 25, Italy has elected a new government. Foto: Julia Cascado / Pixabay / Pixabay License

On September 25, Italy voted - again. Winner is Giorgia Meloni and her party Fratelli d’Italia with 26% of the votes. For Matteo, the election was not a good result. The 25 year old grew up in the Northwest of Italy and studied political science in Bologna. During the interview, Matteo explains how Italians feel about politics these days and what the election means for Italy’s future. How did you experience the election and the political campaigns?

This year, it was very different from previous elections. When the Draghi government collapsed in July we were not really prepared for another election and the political campaigns only lasted for two month from July to September. Usually, this is a period when everybody is on holiday. August is almost like a sacred month in Italy - nobody works or reads the newspaper.

Also, in Italy you can only vote where you are registered. For example, I study and work in Bologna but for the government, I still live in the small city in the Northwest of Italy where I grew up. So I had to go back to my village in order to vote. But I have some friends from Sicily and the South of Italy and they didn’t get the chance to vote because they couldn’t go back home. Actually, there were a lot of complaints about this regulation.

Would you say this was the main reason why only 64% of the Italian people voted?

I think the regulation that you can only vote where you are registered plays a big role here. I would guess that out of the 30% that didn’t vote, probably half of these people simply couldn’t because they were working or studying far away. And of course there is this kind of disillusionment about politics. We had a rather technical government in recent years so people feel very disconnected from the politicians. They don’t feel like their vote can actually make a difference. Like whoever you elect, in the end there is just going to be another technocrat in power.

Sounds like the Italian people are frustrated and tired of all the elections?

I wouldn’t say tired but there is a feeling like my vote is useless because it doesn’t matter who I vote for, in the end you still have someone like Mario Draghi who stands for a very technical government. In comparison, during the 80s and 90s the voter turnout was much higher and people were electing politicians they really believed in and truly supported. But during the last years, politics in Italy have become way more technical.

How would you explain that the coalition of the conservative, far-right parties was able to gather 44% of the votes?

I hear that a lot that Italy is moving to the extreme right but I don’t think so. I mean 26% for Meloni’s party Fratelli d’Italia is a lot but the success of the right has also a lot to do with the voting system. Altogether, the right-wing parties achieved 44% of the votes but due to our electoral system this translates into almost 60% of the seats in parliament which gives the right coalition a majority. This means, the electoral system favours parties that enter into the elections as a coalition. The left-wing parties, on the other hand, didn’t stand a chance because they are very fragmented.

But the support for right-wing politics is growing nonetheless…

Yes it is but there has already existed this part of Italy that voted right-wing, whether it was Berlusconi, the Lega Party or now Meloni. And honestly, they are all almost the same only that Meloni might be more fascist. But I don’t expect a big change for Italy, nothing that we haven’t seen in the past with Berlusconi. I mean I’m not supporting this government but I don’t expect this coalition to be so different from the previous right-wing governments.

Why does Meloni have such a big success?

I think the main reason why Meloni was able to achieve this result is because she never was in any government before. As part of the opposition it is easier to gain support because you are not responsible for any of the recent politics. Meloni’s party was the only in parliament that did not support the Draghi government. So when you didn’t agree with the government, Meloni was basically the only alternative. To be against the Draghi government was the main reason why Meloni was so successful.

Do you think the relationship between Italy and the EU will change?

Yes, I think it will change because before Meloni there was Mario Draghi who is a strong supporter and important figure of the EU. So, the relationship between Italy and the EU will change but long-term I think Meloni will have to adjust and cooperate with the EU. During the campaign, Meloni made extreme statements and was very eurosceptical but now that she is in the government she has to be realistic and must adapt to the circumstances. It is much easier to say controversial things during the campaign than when you are actually in government. Italy is part of the EU and we have to respect European law. Meloni has to accept that.

What do you think the elections mean for Italy’s future?

For me, the election was a huge loss because the coalition that forms the government really has a conservative mindset. I think during the next five years, the country is really going to move backwards. All I can do for now is wait for the next elections and hope this government is going to cause as little damage as possible. I am not sure how well the coalition will work together, they are arguing a lot. So, I hope this government is not going to survive for long and that we are gonna vote again as soon as possible.

So you think the government is not going to last for five years?

That is hard to say. I think they are going to have many discussions and disagreements inside the government. I am not sure how well they will work together. But the right is also very opportunistic. I mean, look at Berlusconi: he doesn’t have any idea about politics. All his career he only cared about his own interest but still he got elected. So it’s hard to say if the coalition can last for five years but I hope not.

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