Record inflation, energy crisis, deindustrialisation: the clouds over Europe haven’t been this gloomy for a long time. Economic experts predict a loss of prosperity, and anger at the elites is growing. The US broadcaster CNN also states: “The conditions for a revival of the populists in Europe are perfect.”
Seve Bannon, the former chief adviser to US President Donald Trump, sees it the same way: “The uprising of the populists in Europe continues – next up is Italy with Giorgia Meloni,” he writes on the news platform Gettr. Bannon has been a fan of Meloni for years. In fact, she is likely to become Italy’s first female prime minister on Sunday evening. In the parliamentary elections on September 25, Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) party is expected to win 25 percent of the votes, making it the clear winner. Nothing stands in the way of an alliance with Lega and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.
CNN comments: “Her victory would be historic not only because of her gender, but also because she leads a party more right-wing than any other political movement Italy has seen since the days of former Fascist leader Benito Mussolini.”
Others see it less dramatically, including the incumbent Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen. With regard to Meloni’s party, he does not believe “that they want to leave European solidarity,” as he recently stated during a visit to Rome.
Meloni campaigned clearly against the establishment around Mario Draghi, who “is an elected technocrat appointed prime minister,” says Marianna Griffini, senior lecturer in the European and International Studies department at King’s College London. Anti-establishment ideas are currently bearing fruit in Italy, she says: “As a country, we have suffered greatly from the pandemic, especially in the initial phase. Many people died, many companies had to close. It was difficult to get support from the rest of the EU.”
Meloni’s win could just be the beginning. “Something is definitely happening. From France and Italy, the major European powers, to Sweden… it seems as if rejection of the apparently failed pan-European orthodoxy is gaining ground among our citizens,” explains Gunnar Beck, MEP for the AfD.
Beck analyses: “The cost of living crisis is undermining governments and European institutions. Of course, the war in Ukraine made things worse, but things like the European Green Deal and the European Central Bank’s monetary policies were already pushing up inflation before the war. The erosion of living standards means people are naturally unhappy with their governments and the political establishment.”
Some are already raising their voices in warning: “The paradox of populism is that it often identifies real problems but wants to replace them with something worse,” says Argentine historian and critic of populism Federico Finchelstein (“From Fascism to Populism in History”). . “They are trying to replace the failures of political elites and institutions with powerful, cult-like leadership.”
The lack of strong personalities among Europe’s statesmen, however, is not the only thing that complains about rights. And voters measure government primarily by results. First of all, they are interested in one thing: whether their standard of living is improving or not.