Italy: Reality domesticates Giorgia Meloni in her first 100 days of government | International

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Giorgia Meloni, Prime Minister of Italy, has lived her first 100 days in government through an intense reality check. The fear instilled by her legend and her far-right profile has been diminishing until she has acquired the appearance of a reliable partner in Brussels. Since the leader of the Brothers of Italy was sworn in on October 22, 2022 and formed a team that made half of Europe tremble, her Executive has operated on an automatic pilot similar to that of her predecessor, Mario. Draghi. The prime minister has become, by force of circumstances, a defender of everything that the establishment European feared that he wanted to destroy. Today, with the road map produced by the previous Administration exhausted, it will be their turn to navigate with their own map that is still unknown.

Meloni's first 100 days – the average life expectancy of an Italian prime minister is around 400 days – are marked by the approval of a budget law that, fundamentally, was designed by Draghi's team and that reflects the prudence of this government. The only innovations that he wanted to introduce in his Executive branch ended up being regulatory blunders. This is the case of the law against rave parties, which bothered the Minister of Justice, Carlo Nordio, and Forza Italia, a coalition partner. And we had to back down. As he also backed down with his proposal to increase the cash payment limit ―a fabulous boost for tax evasion in one of the European countries hardest hit by this practice― and his announced tax cut was limited, fundamentally, to favoring the upper fringe of the self-employed. In addition, he withdrew aid for the price of fuel, whose prices he had promised to contain, and provoked the ire of the gas station companies, which this week called the first strike of his mandate (Italy enjoyed years of social peace). The symbolic decisions, in short, caused problems. And the rest were the result of inertia with the previous government. “It is normal that there are mistakes at the beginning. But they have been corrected ”, explains a member of the Meloni Executive.

The far-right impulse, beyond stridency such as placing Ignazio Benito La Russa, founder of the party and declared admirer of Benito Mussolini, as president of the Senate, or how treating the vast majority of journalists as enemies of his Executive, has been diluted by technical needs. The political scientist Giovanni Orsina even believes that most initiatives "would not even respond to a right-wing government." “He has applied a lot of realism. And except for some somewhat disorderly movement, for which it has had to back down, it has done what any government would do in its place, also of a different color. If they now sign the Mede [el Mecanismo Europeo de Estabilidad, al que se oponía ella personalmente]We don't even talk anymore. The only international conflict was with France [una torpeza diplomática a cuenta de la inmigración], but it is the result of an unwanted mistake, of a sin of inexperience. For the rest of the issues, it does not seem like a right-wing government, but rather an ordinary one from the center. It has not made any reform that could qualify it in any other way, ”says Orsina.

The war in Ukraine has marked international politics. There have been no fissures with the rest of the international allies and support for kyiv has been total. In fact, a trip to the Ukrainian capital is planned before the first anniversary of the Russian invasion, for which Meloni could make a stop in Warsaw and meet the Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, ally and partner of the group of European conservatives that she herself chairs. The meeting in the Polish capital would mean the only nod to the feared group from Visegrad [Eslovaquia, Hungría, Polonia y República Checa]. Until now Meloni has devoted all her energies to pleasing and being in tune with him. establishment from Brussels. In full negotiation of the reformulation of the European recovery plan after the pandemic and about to sign the reform of the Mede, the Executive of the leader of the Brothers of Italy has avoided any type of confrontation that did not have to do with a non-negotiable point for the heart of your schedule. Even in immigration, an alternative route has been sought. “It's a pretty important sign. There is indeed an element of rupture with the previous government, not very important, but not secondary either. They have managed to build an approach to the issue that pleases the electorate and does not break with Europe”, points out Orsina.

Giorgia Meloni receives the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on January 9.GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE (REUTERS)

The Executive has preferred not to close the Italian ports and avoid the naval blockade that Meloni herself proposed in the campaign. In exchange, it is now forcing the rescue NGO boats that arrive in Italy to move to ports that are further and further away from the point where the shipwrecked have been taken. The decision is legal and does not break with the laws of the sea or with European regulations, but it greatly hinders the work of NGOs and sends them, incidentally, an aggressive message.

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no opposition

The Italian prime minister, that is her great advantage now, she has no opposition. Italian politics is in a semi-comatose state in which the left is trying to refound itself -until March, the Democratic Party will not have a new secretary- and where a center space is beginning to emerge led by Carlo Calenda from ex-Renz, head of the poster for Action. But Meloni's wear is beginning to show slightly in the polls, where this week he has lost half a point. Also in the Council of Ministers, where his decisions do not always convince all his partners (Forza Italia and the League). Nando Pangocelli, president of the Ipsos demoscopic company, in charge of the surveys of the Corriere della Seraattributes it "to the issue of fuels" [a la retirada de la bonificación para la gasolina]. “She has created some discontent. Two out of three Italians expected some measure to contain prices. But it still cannot be said that he has finished the honeymoon, ”she qualifies.

Pagnoncelli also believes that Meloni has changed his position on big issues since he came to government. But he insists on the need to observe how he will act now regarding three issues that will mark citizen support: “First, he must prevent the country from going into recession. If the conditions of the families worsen, they will inevitably withdraw their trust. The second aspect is the cohesion of the government coalition: the center-right has had the same number of voters as five years ago, but the power relations have changed. Brothers of Italy has absorbed a relevant part of the voters of the League and Forza Italia. And that means that there is a very strong competition: the more Meloni grows on their behalf, the more tensions there will be. The allies, fearful of losing support, will be tempted to make internal opposition. And the third issue is linked to being able to make better use of European funds, a unique opportunity to make the pending reforms”. If the usual Italian turbulence allows it.

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