AMAC Exclusive – By Ben Solis
A series of resounding electoral victories this week for the center-right coalition of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has once again silenced the critics of the conservative leader and underscored the appeal of her populist “Italy First” agenda.
In total, the three main government parties that comprise Meloni’s coalition won control of nine of the 13 main towns and cities holding elections this year, representing roughly two-thirds of Italy’s population. “The Right wins everywhere – the Left only in Vicenza,” was the headline of the left-leaning daily publication La Republica.
The defeat of the center-left candidate in the Adriatic port city of Ancona was the crowning achievement on the night for conservatives, as it ended liberals’ 30-year rule over the city. For the first twenty years of that span, Ancona was ruled by an offshoot of the Italian Communist Party, signaling just how dramatic of a swing this year’s election represented.
The coalition also took the cities of Massa Marittima, Pisa, and Siena, long regarded as heavily liberal regions. “Strongholds of the left no longer exist,” Meloni declared following the results.
In voting for conservative candidates, Italian voters endorsed Meloni’s broad platform of cutting taxes, stopping illegal immigration, advancing energy independence, and funneling more resources to parents and families – all policies that will no doubt sound familiar to populist conservatives in the United States as well.
Meanwhile, Italian liberals, represented by the Democratic Party (DC), were left devastated, only managing to flip one conservative-held city while losing three of their own. The initial surge of energy felt after the DC elected Elly Schlein, a new, youthful leader, in February has now been all but erased.
In another ominous sign for the DC, the winning mayoral candidate in Vicenza, the only liberal flip, had asked Schlein not to campaign alongside him. “Things went bad for us. It was clearly a defeat,” Schlein said following the results.
Liberals had hoped that Schlein, an avowed progressive leftist who volunteered for Barack Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012, would be able to unite a fractured liberal coalition and respond to Meloni’s stunning success last year. Instead, it appears Schlein has thus far only succeeded in further dividing the left and driving voters toward Meloni’s conservative coalition.
A major contributing factor to conservatives’ success was the unifying message of Meloni’s “Italy First” vision. After the elections, Rome’s daily Il Messagero newspaper declared, “Patria, the fatherland, is the voters’ focus.”
In an address celebrating the victory, Meloni emphasized, “We must not forget that our second mother is the homeland.” Her speech was in direct defiance of leftist rhetoric that has existed throughout Italy and the West for decades suggesting that patriotism and a “country first” mentality are products of fascist ideology that must be discarded.
For Meloni, patriotism is not only good, but a necessary foundation for national prosperity. “Only on the solidarity of those roots can a nation draw the strength, enthusiasm, and courage to be the protagonist of its time,” she declared.
Meloni further emphasized the importance of the nation as closely attached to patriotism. “The nation unites, not fragments, unlike race or a minority.” She then followed that statement up with actions, replacing the term “race” with the word “nation” in all public documents, according to a law approved by the new parliament.
Many of the candidates who prevailed this week embodied this mentality and have personal ties to Meloni. The victor in Ancona’s mayoral race is a middle-aged lawyer who has worked with Meloni since 2014 and been an active member of the Italian conservative movement. In Siena, the new mayor is a high school Italian and Latin teacher whom met Meloni last fall and developed an instant connection with.
Meloni herself has lived up to her “Italy First” mantra. In one stirring example late last month, Meloni departed the G-7 conference in Japan a day early to return to Italy after historic flooding devastated parts of the Emilia-Romagna region, killing 14 people and causing billions in damage.
In all, more than 35,000 people were forced to evacuate. But as they slowly began to pick up the pieces of their broken homes and livelihoods, Meloni arrived to raise morale and make clear to the people that she had not forgotten them, even amid one of the most pivotal international summits. She promised to meet with her cabinet as soon as possible to deliver immediate relief.
For hours, Meloni walked through muddied houses and surveyed farms that were drowned in several feet of water. In one particularly moving image, she placed her hands on the face of an elderly flood victim and assured him that her government would be there to assist him and all who had been affected by the disaster.
Italians are clearly responding to Meloni’s hands-on leadership and unapologetic defense of Italian interests. If this past week’s results are any indication, Italy – and perhaps other countries in Europe as well – could be in the beginning stages of a great conservative resurgence.
Ben Solis is the pen name of an international affairs journalist, historian, and researcher.
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