Europe's far right jubilant after Giorgia Meloni wins Italian election

Market reaction muted as coalition poised for absolute majority in Italy

Giorgia Meloni is poised to become Italy's first female prime minister. AFP
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Far-right parties in Europe celebrated on Monday after Giorgia Meloni won the general election in Italy, putting her on course to become the next prime minister.

Ms Meloni's right-wing alliance ― which also includes Matteo Salvini's far-right League and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia ― will take control of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, with 43.8 per cent of the vote.

Markets reacted cautiously to the long-expected result, while the leader of Italy’s heavily beaten left, Enrico Letta, announced his resignation after the election night rout.

Ms Meloni struck a moderate tone after her Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy) party came out on top, saying in a victory speech she would govern “for all Italians … with the aim of uniting this people".

But there was no hiding the jubilation of far-right parties across Europe at a result expected to shake up the EU and lead to a tougher anti-immigration line in Italy.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen said Italians had “chosen to take their destiny back into their hands”, after a coalition led by Ms Meloni ― whose party has neo-fascist roots― won a majority in Italy’s Parliament.

Ms Le Pen congratulated Ms Meloni and prospective coalition partner Mr Salvini, the nationalist Northern League leader, for having “defied the threats of an anti-democratic and arrogant European Union by winning this great victory”.

In Hungary and Poland, nationalist governments under Prime Ministers Viktor Orban and Mateusz Morawiecki, who are seen as potential allies of Ms Meloni in the EU, both sent warm congratulations.

“In these difficult times, we need more than ever friends who share a common vision and approach to Europe's challenges,” said senior Hungarian official Balazs Orban, who is not a relative of the premier.

Alice Weidel, a leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, hailed the Italian result as a second sign of nationalist momentum this month after historic gains for the Sweden Democrats two weeks ago.

Brothers of Italy supporters celebrate the election results in Rome early on Monday. AP

Italy’s right-wing parties were projected to win an absolute majority of seats in the lower house. The centre-left Democratic Party and its smaller allies took a combined 26.1 per cent.

Ms Meloni will be Italy's first female prime minister once formally appointed by President Sergio Mattarella.

UK Prime Minister Liz Truss sent her congratulations to the far-right leader set to become Italy's first female premier.

"Congratulations to Giorgia Meloni on her party's success in the Italian elections. From supporting Ukraine to addressing global economic challenges, the UK and Italy are close allies," she tweeted.

France and Germany were circumspect on the potential for tension with a more combative Italy.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said she would not comment on Italy’s democratic choice.

“In Europe, we have certain values and, obviously, we will be vigilant," she said, when asked about Italy's human rights.

A spokesman for German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Italy was a Europe-friendly country and that this was not expected to change.

A German Finance Ministry spokeswoman would not be drawn on possible effects on the eurozone, as markets wait to see whether the fiscal caution of Mario Draghi’s government would be set aside under Ms Meloni.

Market reaction was muted, with investors having already priced in a right-wing victory after polls showed Ms Meloni’s coalition with a consistent lead during the campaign.

Centre-left Democratic Party leader Enrico Letta announced his resignation after his election defeat. AP

Italian bonds underperformed Germany’s in Monday trading, but analysts said the sell-off of British assets after a drastic tax-cutting budget last week was having a bigger effect on markets.

The League, the most Eurosceptic party in the expected new coalition, underperformed its pre-election polls. A downbeat Mr Salvini said a 9 per cent vote share was “not a number I wanted”.

But he said he hoped the new government could “go for at least five years straight”, after years of unwieldy coalitions shuffling in and out of office.

Mr Berlusconi, who returns to Parliament at the age of 86 more than a decade after his third spell as prime minister, said he would “try to act as playmaker” in the next government.

On the left, Mr Letta’s Democratic Party became the second-largest party overall but failed to find enough coalition partners to pose a serious challenge to the right.

Mr Letta said the result was a “sad day for Italy and Europe” as he announced he would not seek re-election as party leader.

Updated: September 26, 2022, 8:24 PM
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