ROME, ITALY - DECEMBER 17: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni delivers her speech during "Atreju 2023" political convention organized by militants of Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy), on December 17, 2023 in Rome, Italy. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's right-wing political party organised a four-day political festival in the Italian capital. (Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images)

Vote 24

EP vote likely to shore up PM Meloni’s Fratelli as Italy’s lead party


June’s European Parliament elections will be an important test for Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia party — one that will most likely confirm its supremacy in the country’s politics despite ongoing economic issues.

But it will also pose tricky challenges for the party — which will be forced to stand against its coalition partners as well as weigh up the benefits and risks of moving more to the centre.

First, the good news for Meloni: polls at the start of March indicate Fratelli d’Italia (FdI) will receive the most support in Italy’s upcoming European Parliament vote, with 28 per cent, ahead of the Social Democrats in second place at between 19 and 20 per cent. 

Meloni’s coalition partners lag far behind, with Lega on 9 per cent of the vote while Forza is expected to snag just under 8 per cent.

This reflects “the real prospect of the tables being turned”, said University of Messina lecturer Nicholas Whithorn. 

In the previous Parliament election in 2019, it was Lega that won big with 34.3 per cent as Fratelli secured just 6.4 per cent of the vote.

The result of a reverse will see Deputy Prime Minister and Lega leader Matteo Salvini “desperately moving further Right, in an attempt to set Lega apart from FdI,” he says.

Moving to the centre, for Meloni, raises the likelihood of more influence in Brussels and, at home, of carving into the voter base of a rudderless, post-Silvio Berlusconi Forza Italia. 

According to Oxford Analytica, the risk for Meloni is: “If she distances herself from her coalition allies, they could become an opposition within government.”

Eating into Lega support, though, also offers room for growth.

Next year will also bring regional elections in the North where Lega “has some strong and well-known governors that are barred from running again by the two-term limit”, Oxford Analytica added.

Former prime minister and Senator Matteo Renzi appears to agree with this sentiment, telling news agency Agenzia Giornalistica Italia that Fratelli will likely target the Veneto region, a Lega stronghold, in the upcoming polls.

Meloni wants to get her hands on Veneto and send [regional President and Lega member Luca] Zaia home,” he said.

Francesco Galletti, an adjunct professor of political risk analysis at Rome’s LUISS University, told Brussels Signal that these local elections will offer “the first test” of how FdI will fare in combat against its coalition partners.

Following Sardinian regional elections on February 25, “later this spring another five [regions] will be heading to the polls”, he pointed out.

Regional turnout patterns in European elections also will likely flatter Meloni’s party, Galletti said.

“Electoral turnouts have been traditionally low at EU elections and very, very low in the South.”

In the 2019 Parliament elections, turnout was above 60 per cent in 10 of the 14 constituencies North of Rome and between 51 and 60 per cent in the other four.

South of Rome and Abruzzo, it was under 40 per cent across Southern Italy’s Mezzogiorno region, as it was in Sicily and Sardinia.

These areas also correspond to the Italian constituencies where Fratelli d’Italia is strongest.

In the Northern constituency of Veneto 2, for example, FdI won 43.1 per cent of the vote in 2022.

That remains good news for Meloni, who is keen to cement her party’s status both as a more conventional centre-right force and also as Italy’s dominant political party for the foreseeable future.

The cost of this, though, will likely be a bumpier relationship with Salvini’s Lega looking to harvest votes she abandons on the Right.