As expected, Italian voters have given a strong mandate to the center-right coalition, which emerged as the winner of the general elections held on Sunday, September 25th. Within the coalition, voters significantly rewarded Fratelli d’Italia, led by ECR President Giorgia Meloni. Meloni, who co-founded the party a decade ago, has taken it from a tiny 2 percent share of votes to an astonishing 26 percent while concurrently being at the helm of ECR since 2020.
Based on Italy’s constitutional setup, the President is broadly expected to appoint the ECR leader as the next Prime Minister of Italy. According to Mr. Pelle Geertsen, if Meloni does become the next Prime Minister, the balance of power within the EU Council would shift into ECR-s favor.
Meanwhile, many analysts in Italy and abroad are trying to figure out what the posture of the new Conservative-led Cabinet might be. I believe that, to be effective, the Cabinet’s stance will have to fall within, and be shaped by, an ideal triangle whose vertices are responsibility, engagement, and gradualism. Let’s proceed in turn.
Responsibility is the keyword for a country whose debt-to-GDP ratio stands at 150 per cent. Operationally, this means that every measure has to be fully costed, consistent with the overall thrust of the Cabinet’s economic policy stance and non-antagonistic vis-à-vis financial markets and international partners.
Engagement is also another key requirement that should inform the next Cabinet’s stance. Italy does not operate in a vacuum. On the contrary, it is part of a broader network of institutionalized relationships with other countries: it is a founding member of the EU and NATO, a member of the Bretton Woods architecture, and a member of the G7 and the G20 inter-governmental fora. Many decisions that affect the country are taken in, or inspired by, an international institutional context or framework. To carry out much-needed change at home, the Cabinet will have to engage the appropriate level of decision-making domestically as well as internationally. Engagement is also a keyword for a non-antagonistic approach to financial markets. Markets have discounted the coalition’s victory and have assumed a wait-and-see attitude, which it would be a mistake to confound with a benevolent stance.
Finally, there is gradualism. Italy boasts several deep-seated problems, starting from its very fragile economy. So far, Giorgia Meloni has proved herself to be an effective party head and a charismatic political leader. The recent victory now opens up yet a new challenge whereby she will have to address long-standing economic problems that a decade of inaction has allowed to grow out of proportion. No doubt, this will require steady determination and a calculated approach by the next Prime Minister and her Cabinet.