Italians went to the polls to elect a new parliament on Sunday, 25 September, and the right-wing coalition won. Worst of all, Giorgia Meloni, leader of the far-right party Fratelli d’Italia (FdI), won.
The turnout for Italy’s general election was 63,95%, however—the lowest ever for a general election in the country’s history. On top of broad disappointment in the options and a shared disregard for politics leading many Italians not to vote, a significant portion of the resident population was not even able to exercise their democratic right. This group includes university students and off-site workers living far from their home cities who were unable to return, as well as all of the foreign citizens who have not yet acquired citizenship, despite being legal permanent residents in Italy for years or decades. In this way, voting, which is the primary tool of people’s power in a democracy, turns from a legitimate right into a privilege, and a parliament ends up representing only a slice of the resident population.
The name of Meloni’s party itself, Fratelli d’Italia (“Brothers of Italy”), already represents its core values: brotherhood, as in patriarchal masculinity, and citizenship, as in national and cultural identity, state membership, and the state’s prerogative to include or exclude certain people. Despite being the only Italian political party with a woman leading it, FdI is probably the most distant to feminism.
Soaked in Eurosceptic “national conservatism”—and firm supporters of defending Europe’s “Judeo-Christian roots”—Meloni and her party declined to remove the tricolour flame, a symbol of the fascist tradition, from the party’s logo. In addition, they still use the motto “Dio, patria, famiglia” (“God, homeland, family”), which was coined by a former secretary of the National Fascist Party for their political propaganda. In more concrete terms, Meloni has opposed legislation approved in 2017 against the crime of torture because “it prevents police agents from doing their job”. She is against the 1993 Mancino Law that counters gestures, actions, and slogans linked to Nazi-Fascist ideology as well as violence and discrimination on racial, ethnic, religious, or national grounds, and opposes same-sex marriage, adoption for homogenitorial families, and euthanasia.
No category of marginalised people is left untouched by FdI’s simple and hateful political agenda. From women to the LGBTI community, from victims of state violence to detained people, from the homeless to people with substance use disorders. Those who don’t fit FdI’s criteria of being politically conservative, Christian fundamentalists are automatically deemed “unnatural” and therefore dangerous. They are left behind, when not direct targets of intolerance and discrimination.
Among the particularly targeted is the immigrant—the unwanted, the undocumented, and the ultimate caricature of an “unnatural” and dangerous person. Meloni’s party blatantly spouts the same toxic rhetoric that has been present in Italian politics for some time now, especially within Matteo Salvini’s League party, in which immigration and security go hand in hand and are intextricably tied together. Point 21 of FDI’s electoral programme is called “Stop illegal immigration and return security to citizens” and states: “Illegal immigration threatens the security and quality of life of citizens. Our cities are run down and unlivable. Suburbs and historic centers are the scene of illegal occupations, violence and drug dealing. A strong political shift is needed to ensure legality at our borders, redevelop our territories and strengthen the national social and economic fabric”.
Clearly, the vague image of the depraved “illegal immigrant” put forth by FdI as a major threat to citizens’ security represents violence, poverty, and drugs all at once, embodying the total decline that a neighborhood, a city, or even a country can take. The generalised “illegal migrant” becomes the source of all problems, a scapegoat for the political class—for all the faults the state has ever made and all the structural ills it has not cured.
Indeed, within point 21 on immigration, the leaflet proposes a series of actions that don’t concern migrants, asylum seekers, or refugees, such as municipal video surveillance systems to fight “degradation,” more public lighting, stricter rules for offences against decency, and more commitment to “safer roads”. Its focus is all kinds of issues related to security, from terrorism and corruption to violence against women and children and the “baby gang” phenomenon. The only reference to migrants’ and refugees’ rights is a generic proposal to “promote social inclusion and employment of legal immigrants”.
On asylum in particular, it’s likely that the future government will try to take the same discriminatory and unproductive steps as other European governments, like Denmark, to reduce arrivals at all costs, reduce the level of integration of migrants and refugees within the host society, and criminalise the work of human rights defenders and NGOs aiding migrants, especially those who rescue them at sea. In 2019, when the Sea Watch boat carrying 42 people rescued in the Mediterranean entered the port of Lampedusa despite the government’s explicit prohibition, Meloni was already clear on how she would manage migration flows. She proposed arresting the crew, repatriating the people on board “immediately”, and sinking the ship, as it went “against the will of the Italian government, Italian state, and Italian sovereignty with its aim of bringing illegal immigrants into our territory”.
Within their political programme, FdI affirms their commitment to defend national and European borders through “fighting against the activities of NGOs that favour illegal immigration”, stricter border controls, and further agreements with North African authorities to prevent migrants’ initial departures, as well as deals between EU and third countries regarding management of returns, naval blockades, and the creation of hotspots in non-European territories.
It’s not just the policies and practices strictly concerning asylum and migration issues that will impact these individuals’ rights in Italy that is worrying, but a larger political programme that boasts “support for the birth rate and the family” and encourages “the return to Italy of Italians abroad and people of Italian origin”. It’s a political party that, only two days after the elections, abstained from voting on a document aimed at the full application of the right to safe and legal abortion in the region of Liguria, proposing instead the presence of “pro-life” associations in every hospital where the voluntary termination of pregnancy is practiced. It’s the FdI’s whole political message, which is part of a well-defined global movement that includes Hungary’s Orbán, Spain’s Abascal, Poland’s Morawiecki, and Brazil’s Bolsonaro, and is all about preserving “national and cultural identities” that are white, Christian, and western. The growth of this ideology is—to borrow far-right terminology—actually deeply unnatural and dangerous to us all.