Giorgia Meloni looks everywhere but at the audience. She strokes the microphone holder as if she doesn’t know what to do with her hands. Sometimes she murmurs as if talking to herself. Suddenly she has to get off the wobbly platform abruptly to keep her balance. It was placed in front of her so that, at 1.63 meters tall, she wouldn’t disappear behind the desk. Meloni doesn’t stand in front of her usual fanbase. The politician, who likes to be counted among the populists of the Italian party spectrum, speaks in a darkened room in front of the Confcommercio business association in Rome on this sunny September day.
As her speech progresses, Meloni warms to her audience. She flatters with sentences like: “In this country, the representatives of business often have clearer ideas than the political class.” She recalls the new government debt, which increased by 116 billion euros under Mario Draghi. She railed against “uncontrolled globalization, against free trade without rules”, which is responsible for the fact that authoritarian systems weaken us economically, especially China. What is not mentioned is that the many Italian car suppliers are benefiting from the strong Chinese business of German manufacturers. Meloni prefers to use simple slogans: “We don’t control anything anymore – “nulla”.
Her favorite example is gas and her favorite opponent is Germany. She accuses the Federal Republic of preventing a state-imposed gas cap. Because this would solve virtually all problems – the explosion in costs for households, inflation for companies and thus also the financial crunch of the Italian state, because it would then not have to step in. Europe is thus holding back Italy. “I’m not saying, let’s get out of Europe or keep our distance, I’m saying: We have to defend our interests in Europe more aggressively.” And then she calls on Europe “to do less, to do the important things and to do them better “.
At the end, the entrepreneurs give Meloni considerable applause. Her strategy of taking away the fears of her, the former radical politician, seems to have worked.
An alliance with Salvini and Berlusconi
According to the polls, Giorgia Meloni is the favorite to succeed Mario Draghi as prime minister. Her party, the Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy), stands the best chance of being elected the strongest force in a centre-right coalition this Sunday. The party alliance also includes the right-wing national Lega of former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and the Berlusconi party Forza Italia. But Meloni could shrink them to junior partners. She has cleverly asserted her interests without bending in the eyes of her followers. Due to her high poll numbers, the former heavyweights Salvini and Berlusconi had to give way to her.