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Grading Rubric available in the attachment 2-3 sources expected per response; you need not go beyond assigned readings.Please use (parenthetical) or footnote citations for sources; you may use the last-name or title as presented in the syllabusIf you are using additional sources, please cite these sources at the endYour response should flow as a single answer so outline your responses beforeEach question has ‘a’, ‘b’, ‘c’ sub portions. You may optionally indicate where you are responding to each sub-portion. You may also optionally use bold, italic, or underline key responses (as I have done in the prompts). Neither are mandatory.*****VIII. Center-Right In the 2nd Republic (1994-2018)Silvio Berlusconi and his allies dominated politics in the early years of the 2nd Republic. Elections were held in 1994, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2008, 2013, and 2018, with Berlusconi leading the center-right alliance. In each election, this coalition either received the most votes or were trailing by less than 1%.What characterized the style of governance during the center-right’s time in power?What issues dominated political rhetoric during the center-right’s time in power?Were the dynamics of this governing coalition typical (as compared to either standard expectations of representative parliamentary government and/or Italy’s 1st Republic)?Readings :1-Giuliano Bobba and Duncan MacDonald. Italy, a Strong and Enduring Market for Populism. 2015. InEuropean Populism in the Shadow of the Great Recession: p. 163-1792-Carlo Ruzza and Stefano Fella (2011) Populism and the Italian Right. Acta Politica 46, 158–179.3-Stefano Fella & Carlo Ruzza (2013) Populism and the Fall of the Centre-Right in Italy: The End of theBerlusconi Model or a New Beginning?, Journal of Contemporary European Studies, 21:1, 38-524-Elisabetta De Giorgi & Filippo Tronconi (2018) The center-right in a search for unity and the re-emergence of the neo-fascist right, Contemporary Italian Politics, 10:4, 330-345,


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Contemporary Italian Politics
ISSN: 2324-8823 (Print) 2324-8831 (Online) Journal homepage:
The center-right in a search for unity and the reemergence of the neo-fascist right
Elisabetta De Giorgi & Filippo Tronconi
To cite this article: Elisabetta De Giorgi & Filippo Tronconi (2018) The center-right in a search for
unity and the re-emergence of the neo-fascist right, Contemporary Italian Politics, 10:4, 330-345,
DOI: 10.1080/23248823.2018.1544350
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Published online: 14 Dec 2018.
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2018, VOL. 10, NO. 4, 330–345
The center-right in a search for unity and the re-emergence
of the neo-fascist right
Elisabetta De Giorgi
and Filippo Tronconi
Portugese Institute of International Relations (IPRI), Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal;
Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy
In 2017, the parties of the centre-right camp – Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza
Italia, Matteo Salvini’s (Northern) League and Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli
d’Italia – faced the puzzle of deciding whether to participate in the
imminent general elections as allies or as rivals. On the one hand they
had partially different aims (especially in relation to the European
Union issue) and the problem of choosing the leadership of the alliance; on the other, the new electoral system, partially based on singlemember districts, forced them to present common candidates in order
to maximize their chances of reaching a majority of seats in parliament.
In this article, we outline the stages through which the centre-right
parties attempted to solve this puzzle over the course of the year, finally
reaching an agreement to make a formal electoral alliance. In the final
section of the article, we focus on one additional political actor of the
right wing: the neo-fascist movements, notably Forza Nuova and
CasaPound, which received significant media coverage during 2017.
We describe how these movements were able to gain center stage and
what this implied for the mainstream centre-right parties.
Electoral coalitions;
centre-right; radical right;
leadership; neo-fascist
In a way, the year 2017 began for the center-right on January 21 in Koblenz. On that
date the leaders of the main extreme right parties in Europe came together in the
German city for an event showcasing the visions and political aims that they shared. For
Marine Le Pen (Front National, France), Geert Wilders (Partij voor de Vrijheid,
Netherlands), Frauke Petry (Alternative für Deutschland, Germany) and Matteo
Salvini (Lega Nord) 2016 had ended with the unexpected victory of Donald Trump
in the U.S. presidential elections, as well as the victory for Brexit in the referendum held
in the UK in June. With important elections coming up (presidential and legislative
elections in France, and parliamentary elections in the Netherlands, Germany and then
in Italy), the neo-populist parties of the right had high expectations. From the stage in
Koblenz, Wilders had summarized these expectations in one slogan: ‘Yesterday a new
America, today Koblenz, tomorrow a new Europe.’1 Salvini echoed these sentiments
when clarifying what the new Europe would look like: ‘We all know that the euro
experiment has been a failure and a crime. So as statesmen we have to prepare for the
post-euro scenario (. . .). The sooner we leave the euro, the better it will be for
CONTACT Elisabetta De Giorgi
[email protected]
© 2018 The Founding Editors, Contemporary Italian Politics
Almost twelve months later, the year came to a close with a surprising statement
from Bill Emmott, ex-Editor-in-Chief of the Economist: ‘If his [Berlusconi’s] centerright coalition wins a majority, he will directly choose the prime minister; more likely,
he will be the key player in negotiations over a grand coalition government of centerright and center-left parties. Most remarkable of all, either scenario would be widely
regarded as a stable and respectable outcome, compared to the most likely alternative:
a minority government led by M5S.’3 Emmott, who in 2001 had stated that Berlusconi
was ‘unfit to lead Italy’, now saw him as a wise leader and his coalition as a bastion
against the advances of the populists.4
The year of the center-right can be bracketed between these two extremes. On the
one hand there was the League attempting to complete the process of redefining its own
identity by moving away from seeking independence for the North, positioning itself on
the extreme right, and giving prominence to anti-immigration and anti-euro policies,
with the ambition of expanding its support in the central and southern areas of the
country (Vampa 2017). On the other hand, Silvio Berlusconi was building a moderate
and trustworthy image for himself and for his party, which was surely destined to be the
key player in any post-election alliance. In between these extremes we find Fratelli
d’Italia, the small party led by Giorgia Meloni, that was successful in attracting the votes
of the nostalgic supporters of the Movimento Sociale Italiano (Italian Social Movement).
As we shall see, to the right of these ‘institutional’ parties, some neo-fascist factions also
re-emerged, represented by two groups outside Parliament – Forza Nuova and
CasaPound – which were (surprisingly and worryingly) given considerable media
coverage in the second half of 2017.
The three center-right parties and their leaders would have good reasons to run on
their own ticket: the risk was that moderates could take votes from the ‘sovereignists’
and the sovereignists from the moderates. Nevertheless, the drop in support for the PD
(and the split in the group to its left) and the isolationist line taken by the M5S gave the
center-right a plausible chance of competing, or even running as the favorites, in the
2018 elections. With the electoral system adopted in the autumn, which allows for some
of the seats in single-member constituencies to be awarded on a first-past-the-post
basis, it is of paramount importance to set aside differences and to present a common
political program, and above all, candidates with shared support. Another complicated
issue involved the leadership of the coalition: Salvini had long held an ambition to
undermine the now 80-year-old Berlusconi (Raniolo 2016), but Berlusconi seemed to
have no intention of stepping aside, even though he was banned from taking public
office after being found guilty of tax fraud in 2013.
In the pages that follow we shall outline the stages through which the center-right
parties attempted to solve this puzzle over the course of 2017. We shall consider the
strategies that the three parties adopted in order to secure the leadership of the alliance
(section 1) and to carve out a recognizable political space within it (section 2); the
positions they took on the main issues on the political agenda (section 3); and the reemergence of neo-fascist right fringe groups, which constituted both a danger for the
mainstream parties yet at the same time the chance of a possible breakthrough into
a new electoral market (section 4).
1. The issue of the leadership of the center-right
The municipal elections of June 2016 brought a renewed sense of optimism within the
ranks of the center-right, thanks to the result obtained in Milan, where a credible
candidate, Stefano Parisi, had come very close to a surprise victory in the run-off
against Giuseppe Sala. Above all, the 2016 elections had shown that the center-right
could only be competitive if it was united, as it was in Milan; on the other hand, in
places where Forza Italia and the League put forward competing candidates, as was the
case in Rome, defeat was inevitable (Emanuele and Maggini 2017). The 2017 municipal
elections, along with the regional elections in Sicily, provided further proof that the
center-right could compete strongly. In the June municipal elections, the center-right
had gained control of 49 councils in towns with over 15,000 inhabitants, compared with
51 for the center-left. This was virtually a draw, but in reality it concealed the significant
inroads made by the conservative coalition, given that the coalition won ten more local
elections compared with five years earlier, while the center-left lost 25 elections. The
remaining elections were won by either civic lists or the Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S, Five
Star Movement). If we look beyond the bare figures, the success of the center-right was
boosted by some ‘historic’ victories in cities traditionally run by the left, such as Genoa,
La Spezia and Pistoia (Emanuele and Paparo 2017). In the November 5th elections in
Sicily, Nello Musumeci went on to achieve a clear victory over the M5S candidate, with
twice the number of votes obtained by the Partito Democratico (PD, Democratic Party)
candidate. The Sicilian elections thus marked an important stage in the coming together
of the three center-right parties, which presented a united front in their support for
Musumeci, thus regaining control of a traditionally conservative region, after the
interlude during which it was run by a leftist government led by Rosario Crocetta.
While it is always difficult to draw any general conclusions from local election
results, during the course of the year it became clear that the center-right parties had
the wind in their sails and that a coalition made up of Forza Italia (FI), the League and
Fratelli d’Italia (FdI) would have a genuine chance of winning the parliamentary
elections and possibly of gaining an absolute majority of seats, all of which seemed
most improbable for their main opponents.5
There were also some encouraging signs in opinion polls. Whereas in the autumn of
2016 the number of those intending to vote for the three center-right parties was only
just over 25 percent, this figure reached and remained stable at over 30 percent in
the second half of 2017, reaching its highest point of 33.8 percent in October (Figure 1).
Moreover, since the last months of 2014 the League had bridged the gap with Forza
Italia, which was still around 10 percent in the European elections in May. This can
certainly be attributed to the leadership of Matteo Salvini and to the radical changes of
the party’s political line that he introduced. At the same time, the difficulties of Silvio
Berlusconi, who was serving time for his conviction, doing voluntary service in a center
for the elderly just outside Milan, also had an influence to bear. Nevertheless, from the
beginning of 2015 the power relations between the two parties stabilized, as shown in
opinion polls, leaving the leadership issue of the (possible future) coalition unresolved.
On a personal level, Salvini appears to be a more consistently preferred leader compared to
Berlusconi (Figure 2), hence his claim to take on the role of leader of the center-right coalition
should the League succeed in gaining more votes than Forza Italia (particularly given that,
2014 European
2013 General
Figure 1. Voting intentions for the three center-right parties (2013–2017).
Source: Demos & Pi (
Figure 2. Approval ratings for the center-right leaders (2013–2017).
Note: the graph shows the percentages of those responding to the question: ‘On a scale of 1 to 10, what mark would
you give to . . .’ (only responses of 6 or higher).
Source: Demos & Pi (
following his conviction in 2013, the FI leader is banned from holding public office until
2019). On the other hand, Berlusconi frequently claimed over the course of the year that he
was the historic father of Italy’s center-right and thus, in his opinion, in a position to appoint
the candidate for the role of prime minister.6
The third center-right party, Brothers of Italy, can rely only on a smaller potential
support base – which during 2017 settled at around 5 percent – but which is not
irrelevant. Indeed it may prove to be decisive in the contest with the center-left and
with the 5-Star Movement. Also the personal approval ratings for Giorgia Meloni were
consistently higher than Berlusconi’s, and they were usually close to or higher than
Salvini’s (Figure 2). These ratings certainly reflect the huge media exposure given to the
FdI secretary over the course of the year and her skills as a communicator, especially on
television. But given the balance of power between the three parties, the possibility of
her being a candidate for the leadership of the coalition was never under consideration.
2. Three rivals in search of an alliance
With the approach of parliamentary elections, the center-right seemed to be in
a position to compete. Furthermore, the introduction of the new electoral law, with
a significant number of seats being awarded in single-member constituencies (around
37 percent of the total), made alliance-building indispensable. If this did not take place,
the candidates of the three parties running against each other would end up giving an
advantage to their opponents. This created a dilemma for the three parties, especially
for the two larger ones: on the one hand, it was necessary to find agreement on the
main policies in the electoral manifesto and some form of collaboration given the need
for single candidates who could gain the support of voters from all three parties; on the
other hand, the three parties were seeking to secure the votes from a support base with
partially overlapping allegiances. Consequently the parties needed to distinguish themselves from their allies/rivals to carve out a recognizable political space for themselves
within the alliance. Let us look, then, at the strategies adopted by each party.
In 2017 the League completed the process of redefining its own image and its
positioning on the Italian political spectrum, which began when Salvini was elected as
its secretary (Vampa 2017). The main change consisted in the attempt to make further
inroads in the southern regions. To achieve this, the traditional reference to the north
was deleted from the party symbol in October, and the name of the party itself was
changed to the League. This was a huge step for a party whose success in elections had
been due to its demands for autonomy, or outright secession, of ‘Padania’ from the rest
of Italy. Even the secretary himself, Salvini, had frequently come under criticism for his
insults against the southerners, whose votes he now sought to attract. Already in the
municipal elections in 2016 and in 2017, the ‘Noi con Salvini’ lists had presented
candidates in the southern regions, without achieving stunning results. But there
were some encouraging signs, such as the 2.4 percent in the 2015 regional elections
in Puglia or the 2.7 percent in the 2016 Rome council elections. Although it was not
openly challenged, this transformation was not without consequences inside the party.
In an effort to put the regionalist issue back at the center of the League’s political
program, the two presidents of the Veneto and Lombardy regions, Luca Zaia and
Roberto Maroni, put forward a referendum calling for autonomy for their respective
regions, which was held simultaneously on October 22.7 The result of this referendum
would not be binding in any way, nor would it have immediate political consequences.
As expected, the outcome was a strong ‘Yes’ response to the question, but the focus of
public debate was soon to move elsewhere.8 From a technical point of view it was
a consultative referendum, in which citizens were asked to give a mandate to negotiate
with the government in Rome to obtain ‘other forms and special conditions for
autonomy,’ as set out in Article 116 of the Constitution. The political significance of
the referendum, however, was obvious. Zaia and Maroni, two leading figures inside the
party, did not want to follow the secretary’s political line, and they were putting on the
table the electoral and symbolic importance of the regions where the League had
originated and gained its greatest successes. This came at a time when regional tensions
were coming to the fore again in Europe as a result of the secessionist movement in
A few weeks earlier (on September 17) the League’s traditional annual rally was held
in Pontida, where the party decides on its strategies and spreads its buzzwords to
members and sympathizers. For the first time since 1990, the founder Umberto Bossi
was not invited to speak from the stage, while the secretary (with the huge slogan
‘Salvini premier’ displayed behind him) gave a speech focusing on his opposition to
Turkey joining the EU, on security, on the abolition of the Fornero law (which raised
the pension age threshold), on the precarious jobs encouraged by the Jobs Act, and on
the vaccinations made compulsory by the government, which in his view put children’s
health at risk. However, there was no reference to the traditional themes of federalism
or autonomy for the North. In spite of the referendum results and the doubts of some
of the traditional members of the party executive, Salvini’s leadership and his strategic
vision appeared to go unchallenged.
While Salvini’s rise in the League has been a recent event, the leadership issue in
Forza Italia has never been under debate; from its very foundation in 1994, Forza Italia
has in fact been described as a typical example of a personal party (Calise 2000; Gunther
and Diamond 2003; Raniolo 2006; McDonnell 2013). Silvio Berlusconi has always been
its universally recognized leader and he has always had total control over the party and
over all its decision-making processes, not just when it was founded, but from that time
onwards. In 2007 he decided, unilaterally and with no sign of any internal debate, to
dissolve the party and to found a new one (PdL – Popolo della Libertà) which was to
include within it the historic allies of Alleanza Nazionale; in 2013, a similar unilateral
decision was taken to reconstruct Forza Italia. The party’s national election campaigns
(and frequently the local ones too) have always focused on Berlusconi as its head, his
successes in the worlds of business and politics, on the superior nature of his leadership,
and even on the flaunting of his body (Belpoliti 2011) or at least on his unparalleled
physical stamina. In 2017 all this could have constituted a risk factor. As mentioned
earlier, in fact, Berlusconi would not be able to hold public office until 2019, so he could
not stand as a candidate in the parliamentary elections, due to the conviction he
received in 2013. Of course, the old leader could still run the election campaign;
however, the best prospect for the post-election stage for Berlusconi was to have
a key role in the selection of …
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