Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri, Palazzo Chigi, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

77 years, 68 governments

Ever since the reunification of Italy in 1861, the country has struggled with political instability. Italy is notorious in the Western world for having very short-lived governments, frequent elections, and a relatively unstable parliament. In 77 years, the country has seen 68 governments, on average one government every 1.1 years. 

Division and conquest

One hundred years after Italy first embraced fascism, Italy voted in its most far-right post war government. 

In 2022, Mario Draghi resigned as prime minister, triggering the Italian President to call a snap election. Polls leading up to the vote in September favoured Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy). The centrist and left-wing parties were prone to infighting, repeatedly refusing to form coalitions with each other, as these coalitions had been the basis of the previous three governments. After the lowest voter turnout in the history of the Italian Republic, Italy elected its new, and first female, prime minister.  

Meloni became Italy’s prime minister in September 2022 when her party Fratelli d’Italia formed a coalition with other right-wing parties Forza Italia and Lega Nord. At the time of the election, Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini were the leaders of the respective parties. A resurfaced video of Salvini shows him calling for the ‘mass cleansing’ of immigrants and ethnic minorities. Berlusconi during his premiership welcomed the far-right back into Italian politics, giving those with a neo-fascist past positions in his government and openly supporting them in local elections. Giorgia Meloni gained power on the centenary of the March on Rome when Mussolini gained control of Italy. One hundred years after Italy first embraced fascism, Italy voted in its most far-right post war government. 

Bella Ciao?

Fascism in Italy did not die with Mussolini. Italy was alone in European politics, being the only country in Europe to have an unbroken and notable neo-fascist presence in the post-war years. Many fascists went unpunished, unlike their German counterparts. Italians collectively forgot the trauma they had endured under Mussolini’s regime. In 1946, the first year of the Italian Republic, the Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI) was founded by Giorgio Almirante and other fascist supporters of Mussolini. By the late 1950s, the MSI was the fourth biggest party in Italy. 

Following this came the so-called ‘Years of Lead’. This saw twenty years of troubles from the 1960s-1980s, where neo-communist and neo-fascist groups gained power and increased their following. These years saw the assassination of then Prime Minister Aldo Moro, and multiple terrorist attacks including the bombing of Bologna train station. In these years, Almirante declared ‘fascism is not behind us but ahead of us’. He was right. Neo-fascism has never waned in Italy, always present in the form of politicians and members of the public who praise Mussolini and brush over the true horror of Italy’s fascist past. 


Silvio Berlusconi’s premiership lasted11 years across four governments, the longest of any post-war Prime Minister in Italy. During this time, he formed a coalition with the MSI and claimed in a 2003 interview that “Mussolini never killed anyone”, overlooking the massacres committed by fascists in Italy and its colonies while simultaneously denying Italy’s participation in the Holocaust. In 21st century Italy, neo-fascist rallies are still taking place throughout the country.  


Meloni, at age 19 while she was a member of the MSI, said in an interview with French TV that ‘Mussolini was a good politician [that is to say] everything he did, he did for Italy. We don’t find that in politicians in the last 50 years.’Her views have changed. Nowadays, Meloni is quick to deny the allegations that she is fascist. In her maiden speech as Prime Minister she was eager to denounce the ideology, saying ‘I have never been fond of nor close to anti-democratic regimes; I am referring to any such regime, including fascism.’ On Italian Liberation Day, when Italy celebrates its freedom from fascism, she wrote in Corriera della Sera, ‘In fact for many years […] the parties representing the right in Parliament have declared their incompatibility with any nostalgia for fascism.’ Although she distances herself from fascism and the far-right, other party members and those in her coalition have failed to condemn it.

Co-founder of Fratelli d’Italia and President of the Senate, Ignazio La Russa, Roman saluted in parliament and collects fascist memorabilia. The Minister of Tourism, Daniela Santanchè, previously claimed being called a fascist is a compliment. Party members also supported the building of a commemorative mausoleum honouring Rodolfo Graziani, a high-ranking fascist who committed war crimes and genocide in Libya, Somalia and Ethiopia, calling him an ‘example to younger people’. Her party Fratelli d’Italia is a descendent of the MSI and still carries the MSI’s emblem of the tricolour flame as their logo. La Russa said in a 2022 interview, “We are all heirs of Il Duce [Mussolini].” In March, when Meloni addressed the CGIL (Italy’s largest trade union) some in the crowd responded by singing Bella Ciao which originated as a partisan song under Mussolini’s regime. In singing that song, members made their stance on the current coalition clear – they believed the coalition’s views partially aligned with fascism. 

Woman, mother, Italian, Christian

Throughout her campaign Meloni described herself as “woman, mother, Italian, Christian”, a phrase which she first coined at a right-wing rally organised by Salvini in 2019. All four adjectives reflect her political stance – a traditional person who is representative of a ‘true’ Italian. She plays into the public’s disliking of the ‘other’ people such as immigrants, the LGBT+ community and ethnic minorities. She uses the nostalgia for the Italy of times-gone-by to fuel the right-wing sentiment which lingered in the country. One of her commonly used slogans during her campaign was ‘God, family, country’, cementing herself firmly as someone who cares about ‘true’ Italian values. In doing so, she was able to portray the right-wing parties – her party – as the people’s saviour.  

LGBTQ rights

Italy repeatedly ranks amongst the worst in Western Europe for LGBT+ rights, and many in the community fear that the current political climate in Italy will only worsen their freedom and rights. When Justin Trudeau criticised Italy’s homophobia publicly at the G7 summit in May 2023, Meloni responded saying that Trudeau was a ‘victim of fake news’. On the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, Meloni issued a statement saying ‘the Government reaffirms its commitment against all forms of discrimination, violence and intolerance.’ She has previously said that the LGBT community doesn’t face discrimination in Italy. Fratelli d’Italia opposed Italy’s anti-homophobia law, the DDL Zan, as did a majority of politicians. When DDL Zan failed to pass through the senate, some politicians erupted in applause – a video of which was then widely circulated on social media.  

Earlier this year, Meloni’s government began further limiting the rights of same-sex couples, after instructing officials to only record the biological parent’s name for children of same-sex parents. In her election campaign she repeatedly pushed homophobic narratives. When giving a speech at a far-right rally in Spain she said, “Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby! Yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology!” Meloni has repeatedly opposed same-sex marriage, which is still illegal in Italy. At a campaign rally in Sardinia, she said “you already have civil unions” in response to an LGBT+ member of the public who told her he wanted equal rights, including the right to marry. Other party members have said worse – in an interview with Rai Radio 1, the leader of the majority in the Senate called the LGBT+ community ‘an abomination’ and still remains in post.  


Meloni’s campaign promised to crack down on illegal immigration, even proposing a naval blockade in the Mediterranean. She has not kept this promise, as it would violate European and international law. In April 2023, the parliament voted on the Cutro decree, named after a shipwreck in which at least 94 immigrants drowned. Passed in May 2023, this law extremely limits the ability of refugees to claim asylum in Italy, letting them remain in detention centres for up to two years. During a speech at the CISAL national congress, Meloni’s brother-in-law and Minister of Agriculture Francesco Lollobrigida said that immigration has led to the ‘ethnic substitution’ of Italian people in their own country. This has been criticised by Elly Schlein, leader of the centre-left opposition PD, as words ‘that take us back to the 1930s’.  

Meloni has said her anti-immigrant policies are to prevent what she calls ‘the extinction of the Italian people’. Meloni uses the declining birth rate in Italy, which stands at 1.2 children per woman, to further reinforce this replacement of the Italian ethnicity, because immigrants are having more children than Italian women. At the far-right rally in Spain Meloni also said that “the secular left and radical Islam are menacing our [Italian] roots.”

There has been a Muslim presence in Italy since the 9th century and, according to Pew Research Centre, less than 5% of Italy’s population is Muslim. The ruling parties portray immigrants arriving in Italy to destroy Christianity and eradicate the Italian ethnicity. This fearmongering that the Italian ethnicity and religion is disappearing, that ‘criminal’ immigrants are taking over the country and that the Italian ethnicity is the superior one, is reminiscent of other far-right ideology. However, in July during a cabinet meeting, Meloni’s government acknowledged that Italy needs immigrants to replace the country’s declining population and workforce, estimating the need for around 833,000 migrant workers in the next 3 years.  

A precursor of what is yet to come?

Whatever the outcome of her tenure, the far-right will not disappear quickly in Italy – it never truly disappeared.

Is Italy merely forging its own path that reflects its troubled political history, or is it a precursor of what is yet to come in the rest of Western Europe? France’s elections have seen right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen make the final round twice. There are many more instances in Europe, such as the far-right gaining votes in Germany and Orbán’s policies in Hungary. The growth of the far-right is not unique to Italy; however, Italy is the only western European country to currently be led by a far-right government.

What is yet to come of Italian politics remains to be seen. Will Meloni fall prey to the short governmental terms, or will she follow Berlusconi’s legacy? Will the fragmented centre-left parties be able to unite and regain control of government? In a recent poll, Meloni had an approval rating of 44% – the lowest since her election. Whatever the outcome of her tenure, the far-right will not disappear quickly in Italy – it never truly disappeared.  

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