The right’s victory is certain, although it will not be possible to quantify it in seats until the votes are tallied up in the uninominal constituencies, and the majority in the Senate may prove slim. FdI’s result, around 26%, is more than outstanding, although perhaps a little below the expectations from the very last days.
So, why is it that after the first “trend polls,” and also after the more solid first projections, there was silence from the right? There were many compliments and congratulations coming in – whether welcome or not, it’s hard to say – from allies in Europe, from Orbán, a unwilling protagonist in this election campaign, from Marine Le Pen, although Meloni has replaced her as a model with Margaret Thatcher; and sooner or later, Moscow will also make itself heard.
But at the FdI headquarters, crowded with cameras as never before, not only from Italy but from halfway around the world, no one appeared to give a hot take on a result that remains striking, no matter how it may change on the final tally. Only Matteo Salvini tweeted, without any great urgency: he thanked the voters, although it wasn’t clear he had much to thank them for. That would become even more obvious when the first projections painted a picture of a disaster for the Lega: less than 9%, trailed by a resurgent Forza Italia only half a point behind: 8.8% versus 8.2%.
Silvio Berlusconi had already said his piece at the polling station, with the nonchalant style he had already shown when he spoke about his friend Putin and defended his supposed good intentions regarding Ukraine. Now he admitted he was “a little afraid” of Giorgia Meloni, whom he now has to anoint as prime minister despite his reservations. He believed he could overtake Salvini, “another guy who has never worked in his life.” The projections, if confirmed, are saying that against all odds, “the Knight” has nearly succeeded.
This is the reason for Fratelli d’Italia’s cautious silence, and also for the veiled concern that is leaking out and somewhat dampening the justified celebratory mood: the results of its allies, which foreshadow innumerable problems for the victorious leader. Giorgia Meloni and her staff knew in advance that there would be such issues, though to a less extreme degree, and over the past few weeks, between rallies, they have tried to devise a plan to defuse the looming threats.
Meloni aims to make the Lega much less of an issue through an agreement with its heavyweights, the “Northern Party,” the regional governors, Giancarlo Giorgetti’s wing. They will have to keep the “Captain” on a short leash. That is, if Salvini doesn’t end up being dethroned, a possibility more and more credible after the poll results. Of course, the pact will come at a price, and the FdI bosses know what it is well enough, even if they’re trying to gloss over it at the moment: differentiated autonomy. For the northern Lega, nothing else matters.
Things are more difficult with Forza Italia. Assuming the projections translate into the final totals, Silvio Berlusconi has pulled off yet another campaign miracle, bringing a party that had been written off within a hair’s breadth of the Lega, which is in freefall. But this was his swan song, and his FI colleagues know it. The story of the man from Arcore is nearing its final chapter, and they’re feeling an already urgent need to find another home. So FdI will have to negotiate, if not with everyone in the party, at least with many of them, starting with Berlusconi, whose price is already known. However much he’s trying to hide it in public, what he really wants is the presidency of the Senate. It will be difficult to deny him that post, impossible if the FI votes in the Senate prove decisive for the fate of a right-wing majority.
Group leader Paolo Barelli used honeyed tones towards the FdI leader, who “certainly made great use of the fact that she has always been in the opposition.” But he didn’t forget to point out that FI will be indispensable, and will anchor the majority in Europe and NATO.
But Berlusconi is not the only problem: forming the government will be the first serious test. Meloni has her list of figures in mind, and in her approach she seems to want to look to Draghi as inspiration, to whom she is actually much closer, in method and substance, than she appears to be to the Silvio Berlusconi of the rip-roaring years. However, she will have to deal with her allies, ministry by ministry. A situation that has its paradoxical aspects. Forza Italia is certainly a party in decline, while Giorgia Meloni has achieved in a very short time a result that would have been literally unthinkable just two years ago. Yet, with his votes, the aging leader from Arcore is likely to have decisive power over the majority.
Nonetheless, there is something jarring about these all-too-common analyses. There is a sense that we are not realizing the magnitude of the historic earthquake that occurred on Sunday. A force that is proudly heir to the MSI, something very different from a fascist party, but still the only force lying outside the old constitutional political arc, is now the relative majority party in Italy.