Meloni strengthens her hand as EU power broker

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Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has hailed her party’s landslide win in European parliament elections, which has strengthened her political hand as a power broker in upcoming EU negotiations.

With vote counting nearly complete on Monday, Meloni’s hard-right Brothers of Italy party consolidated its position as the country’s largest political force, clinching about 28.8 per cent of the vote, up from the 26 per cent it secured in the 2022 general elections that swept it into power.

The Italian leader’s strong performance stands in contrast with the electoral losses of French President Emmanuel Macron, who called snap elections in response to the result, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, whose three-way coalition was dealt a bruising defeat by the conservative and far right opposition.

Meloni, who cut her political teeth in a post-fascist youth movement, expressed pride at the “sensational result” that she said would give Italy a “fundamental role” in sensitive debates over EU top jobs and future policy direction.

She said voters increasingly turning to far-right parties across the continent required Europe to tack to the right. She also hailed the victory of French far-right leader Marine Le Pen as “very important”.

Le Pen has called on Meloni to join a supergroup on the right in the European parliament. In the outgoing assembly, France’s Rassemblement National and Meloni’s party sit in two separate groups.

But the Italian prime minister has so far ruled out prospects of her MEPs joining forces with RN, which could become the ruling party in France after snap elections in three weeks. Nor has Meloni indicated whether she would back Ursula von der Leyen for a second term as European Commission president.

“This is the best result she could ever dream of,” said Ernesto Di Giovanni, co-founder of Utopia, a Rome-based political consultancy and who was active in the same far-right movement Meloni joined as a teenager. “She wanted to prove that she is the undisputed leader of the centre right in Italy.”

“She will come to Brussels saying, ‘hey, I am the only one who won in my own country’,” said Di Giovanni. “She has the cards to count — to be the kingmaker, to try to push the commission towards her more conservative policies.”

Meloni on Monday called her victory a vindication of how her three-way coalition government that includes the centre-right Forza Italia and far-right League has governed the Eurozone’s third-largest economy.

Taken together, the three coalition partners raised their combined vote share to 47.46 in the European polls, up from 43.78 in the general election in 2022.

“I’m proud that we are heading to the G7 and Europe with the strongest government of all,” she said, referring to the summit of G7 leaders she is hosting in Bari later this week.

In her quest to secure even more votes than in 2022, Meloni put her reputation on the line, running a hyper-personalised election campaign under the slogan “with Giorgia”, and her own name on the ballot.

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