Officially, Giorgia Meloni, the big winner of the Italian parliamentary elections , has not yet received a formation assignment. We will certainly have to wait for that until after the opening session of the new parliament, on 13 October. But Meloni, together with her allies Matteo Salvini (Lega) and Silvio Berlusconi (Forza Italia), are already fully considering the composition of the new government. Those negotiations turned out to be a chore. For example, Meloni wants a lot of technical experts from the field on board, and Berlusconi and Salvini would rather see that differently. Stokebrand Salvini also does not abandon his ambition to become Minister of the Interior again. In that role, he pursued a radical migration policy in 2018 and 2019 that put him on a collision course with Europe. Meloni, who prefers to start on a slightly better footing with Europe , tries to get Salvini interested in another post. Of course, she weighs much heavier at the moment. Its far-right, populist Brothers of Italy party gained 26 percent, while the right-wing nationalist Lega dipped below 9 percent and the right-liberal Forza Italia — for many years the strongest in the alliance — remained at 8 percent. The balance of power has clearly shifted, but in the past that has never been a reason to break up the right-wing alliance. The alliance has lasted for almost thirty years, and its architect is Silvio Berlusconi, 86 years old and re-elected to the Senate. When the post-fascists come to power in Italy, it will be nothing new at all. Berlusconi, along with the separatist Lega Nord, included them in his first-ever coalition government as early as 1994. After that, he would form three more governments with them. “That’s how he brought the post-fascists in Italy into the mainstream and made them acceptable,” Bill Emmott, former editor-in-chief of The Economist , said on the phone. Under Emmott’s leadership, the British magazine scathingly criticized Berlusconi’s administration. And Emmott still has it: “Berlusconi’s governing coalition survived because everyone got their share of the pie. Interest groups and political figures had to be kept happy, and supporters rewarded.” Berlusconi’s supposedly stable governance, the analyst says, “certainly led to more corruption in Italy.” The Economist would be charged with libel. “We won in court, Berlusconi in the voting booth afterwards,” Emmott says with dry, English humor. From neo- to post-fascists When Berlusconi incorporated the Alleanza Nazionale (‘National Alliance’) party into his first government in 1994, it had not yet formally distanced itself from ideological references to fascism. AN was merely the new name of the neo-fascist Movimento Sociale Italiano (“Italian Social Movement”), founded in 1946 by Mussolini sympathizers. At a party congress in 1995, AN set course on the initiative of party chairman Gianfranco Fini for a right-wing conservative party. The ‘diehards’ of the old MSI left the ship. And Fini later became Minister of Foreign Affairs and Speaker of the House. Also read Fini wants to make the National Alliance ‘reasonably right-wing’ (1995) Alleanza Nazionale was the political school of Giorgia Meloni, whobecame Vice-President of Parliament and Minister of Youth at a young age . Her party Brothers of Italy is the natural successor of AN, but is seen as a lot more radical. It was therefore striking that Gianfranco Fini explicitly stood up for Meloni during an informal meeting with foreign correspondents in Rome on Monday. “In her previous roles, Meloni has never shown herself to be dangerous, extremist or ambiguous,” said Fini, who has not commented on Italian politics for years. Her pro-NATO stance, he says, is sincere. He acknowledged “didn’t agree with her on everything” – Fini thinks a lot more liberally about social issues – but added that “certain fears about Meloni will prove unfounded”. Anti-gay and socially conservative While Gianfranco Fini tries to calm things down around Meloni with a view to the near future, Bill Emmott looks back. The deeply conservative social positions of Meloni’s party reminded Emmott strongly of Berlusconi’s time as prime minister during the recent election campaign: “Berlusconi has always been anti-gay and socially very conservative, also on bioethical issues.” The British commentator notes that Berlusconi not only drew the radical right into the mainstream, but that the ideas also found acceptance in the rest of Europe. The most striking example is migration. “Berlusconi, or his allies, have also always had a strong anti-immigration agenda,” Emmott said. Also read Women and LGBT people in Italy fear ‘orbánisation’ if the radical right comes to power The Lega Nord, known for fierce rhetoric towards Southern Italians and immigrants, managed to steer the immigration debate considerably. In 2008, Berlusconi signed an expulsion agreement with Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi. Italy would intercept boat people on the high seas and sent them back to Libya, a country with no asylum policy, between 2009 and 2010. This did not cause much commotion in Europe. When Berlusconi was prime minister, his legal problems and his colorful lifestyle drew attention. For Matteo Salvini’s Lega, immigration is still high on the agenda. That is why he remains so keen on the ministerial post of the Interior. But even if he misses the mark, with Meloni sounding more moderate on migration than during her campaign – “I’m sure that naval blockade she talked about won’t happen,” Fini said – Salvini is no longer alone in Europe. In the meantime, a number of other EU countries such as Greece, Spain or France are also acting much harder. “Europe has become a bit more like Berlusconi,” Emmott concludes. A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of October 7, 2022