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Italian PM Meloni says will stand in EU elections

By AFP - Apr 28,2024 - Last updated at Apr 28,2024

Italy’s Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni stands on stage surrounded by young people after her speech during the campaign meeting of the far-right party Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) ahead of the European Elections, on Sunday in Pescara (AFP photo)

ROME — Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Sunday she would stand in upcoming European Parliament elections, a move apparently calculated to boost her far-right party, although she would be forced to resign immediately.

Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which has neo-Fascist roots, came top in Italy’s 2022 general election with 26 per cent of the vote.

It is polling at similar levels ahead of the European elections on from June 6-9.

With Meloni heading the list of candidates, Brothers of Italy could exploit its national popularity at the EU level, even though EU rules require that any winner already holding a ministerial position must immediately resign from the EU assembly.

“We want to do in Europe exactly what we did in Italy on September 25, 2022 — creating a majority that brings together the forces of the right to finally send the left into opposition, even in Europe!” Meloni told a party event in the Adriatic city of Pescara. 

In a fiery, sweeping speech touching briefly on issues from surrogacy and Ramadan to artificial meat, Meloni extolled her coalition government’s one-and-a-half years in power and what she said were its efforts to combat illegal immigration, protect families and defend Christian values. 

After speaking for more than an hour in the combative tone reminiscent of her election campaigns, Meloni said she had decided to run for a seat in the European Parliament. 

“I’m doing it because I want to ask Italians if they are satisfied with the work we are doing in Italy and that we’re doing in Europe,” she said, suggesting that only she could unite Europe’s conservatives. 

“I’m doing it because in addition to being president of Brothers of Italy I’m also the leader of the European conservatives who want to have a decisive role in changing the course of European politics,” she added.

The move by Meloni, while allowed under EU regulations, is “a pragmatic, shameless electoral calculation”, said Wolfango Piccoli, head of research at Teneo Intelligence. 

“The feeling is she will carry her weight to gain more votes,” he said, adding that polls suggest that Meloni’s name at the top of the list could improve Brothers of Italy’s showing by two to 3 per cent.

 

Voters unaware

 

Daniele Albertazzi, a professor of politics at the University of Surrey, said Italy’s leaders “often do this just to get more votes, that’s all there is to it”.

“They almost never take up a seat in the European Parliament, they wouldn’t want to leave national politics. But many have done this before.”

EU rules require checks that newly elected MEPs do not hold other offices deemed “incompatible” with their role, such as being a government minister. 

If they do, they must step down and appoint a replacement. 

“Most voters are unaware or they don’t care,” Piccoli said. “It’s about voting for the person regardless of whether she can keep the job or not.”

The tactic was used in 2019 by Meloni’s deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, who leads the far-right Lega Party.  The EU Parliament elections do not provide for alliances within Italy’s parties, meaning that Brothers of Italy will be in direct competition with its coalition partners Lega and Forza Italia, founded by Silvio Berlusconi.

The Lega and Forza Italia are polling well below Meloni’s party, at about 7 per cent and 8 per cent, respectively.

In her rise to power, Meloni often railed against the European Union, “LGBT lobbies” and what she has called the politically correct rhetoric of the left, appealing to many voters with her straight talk. 

“I am Giorgia, I am a woman, I am a mother, I am Italian, I am a Christian,” she famously declared at a 2019 rally. 

She used a similar tone Sunday, instructing voters to simply write “Giorgia” on their ballots.

“I have always been, I am, and will always be proud of being an ordinary person,” she shouted.

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