Now that we’ve closed the book on Giorgia Meloni’s end-of-year press conference, many deadlines are looming on the horizon. For Meloni, the challenges of the coming months and the obstacle race to the spring elections have only just begun. The game will be played out on several levels.
For one, there is the internal level, which concerns the ability of the party structure of Fratelli d’Italia to remain solid under the stress of being in government.
The case of the shot fired in the dark on New Year’s Eve in Biella by Deputy Emanuele Pozzolo is yet another warning sign. Beyond the specific criminal responsibility for this particular episode, which is being investigated by the Biella prosecutor’s office with the help of the Parma forensics department, the political problem is obvious to most observers: it concerns the selection of the ruling class of the FdI, a party that has grown by leaps and bounds in just a few years.
Speaking to reporters recently, Meloni proudly recalled that the political force she founded started at 1.9 percent. This sudden expansion, and all the jumping onto the Melonian bandwagon that took place at the local level, is likely to lead to more than one embarrassing situation. On Monday, Gianfranco Fini spoke to Il Foglio about the emblematic Pozzolo scandal and his history with the post-fascist world: “When I was president of AN, we removed him without even expelling him from the Vercelli federation, because he was an extremist engaging in verbal violence,” recalled the former President of the Chamber. “His case didn’t end up on my desk; it was Donato Lamorte, head of my political secretariat, who handled it. We understood that he was a balengo (‘odd fellow’), as they say in Piedmont, and we led him out the door: go on, get.”
How many more balenghi are still in the FdI and can do more damage? Giorgia Meloni will have to answer this question over the next few weeks. If she really did scrape the bottom of the barrel in terms of political personnel before the elections that led her to the Palazzo Chigi, as many analysts have said since the beginning of the current legislature, it will be hard for her to put together lists for the crucial European elections in June.
The European elections represent the second chapter in Meloni’s 2024 saga. The prime minister started out with no small ambitions, aiming to shift the balance in the European Union and break the axis of Populars and Socialists around which the European Commission revolves.
For one, the flop of the neo-Francoist Vox in last summer’s Spanish parliamentary elections proved that this goal is virtually unattainable. At best, Meloni can hope for an enlargement of the majority that would include some of the conservatives. And it would be far from a nimble turn, not least because it would leave her exposed to attacks from further right, and to those from her competitor in Italy, Salvini’s Lega, who are looking to grow their support from the reactionary front around the candidacy of General Roberto Vannacci.
At the year-end press conference, the FdI leader tried to disentangle herself and separate the issue of the vote on the Commission from that of alliances in the European Parliament. She is still facing the risk of being left out of the game in Europe, after her poor showing on the Stability Pact and the retaliation of the vote in the Chamber on the ratification of the EFM.
Since we’re talking about elections, we must also turn to the Italian regionals. Here, too, one can say that tensions between the right-wing allies have arisen from the rapid growth of the FdI, which threatens to stretch the alliance to the breaking point in the quest to find a balance in the distribution of candidates for regional president. This has happened in recent days in Sardinia, where the Lega insists on running Christian Solinas again and the Melonians would like to run Cagliari Mayor Paolo Truzzu instead. But the domino effect could also extend to the other regions on the ballot (Piedmont, Basilicata, Abruzzo and Umbria) and to the municipalities, starting with the regional capitals: Florence, Bari, Cagliari, Perugia, Potenza and Campobasso. The top figures in Meloni’s party are claiming they are underrepresented; however, the Lega’s deputy secretary, Andrea Crippa, recently spoke of the need to “ensure continuity and renew trust regarding outgoing center-right mayors and governors.”
Time is running out, and the puzzle must be solved by the end of the month at the latest. The electoral lists must be presented and the issue of beach concessions and the European directive on competition, stressed in recent days by Sergio Mattarella, must be resolved. The premier’s agenda still has no meetings scheduled. However, it will be necessary for all the leaders to sit down at a table and look each other in the eye to try to overcome the stumbling blocks on the horizon in 2024.