Why do we talk about the center-right in Italy and post-fascism in France?

Far right, post-fascism or centre-right? Between the French and Italian media, the victory on Sunday in the legislative elections of the coalition led by Giorgia Meloni is not qualified in the same way. On the continuous news channel of Rai, for example, there is talk of the victory of the “centro destra”, the center-right. Ditto for the left newspaper La Republica. Coming in first with 44% of the vote, the alliance of the rights, including Fratelli d’Italia, the League (anti-immigration) and Forza Italia (right), will try in the coming days to form a government.

On the contrary, the French media describe the comeback of the extreme right in Italy and analyze the victory of a “post-fascist” party. A difference in treatment that personalities or internet users on the right or far right have noticed in tweets that have gone viral.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen so much enthusiasm to vote and most of it for #Meloni! None speaks of the extreme right! “, remarked in particular Yves Pozzo di Borgo, former UDI senator who became relay of pro-russian propaganda on social networks. “Can someone explain to me the meaning of the word “postfascist” (after fascism??) used with delight on all the French airwaves when it is hardly used by the Italian press? “, noted Eugénie Bastié, journalist at the Figaro.

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To understand the use in France of the term post-fascist, we have to go back to the 1990s and the break, in Italy, with the fascist past. Break initiated by Gianfranco Fini, leader of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), direct heir to Mussolini and become the National Alliance. Fini had declared that “the party was no longer fascist, that it no longer claimed Mussolini’s heritage, and it had also condemned this regime, specifies Gilles Ivaldi, political scientist, specialist in European far right at Cevipof. This has been called the post-fascist moment, that is to say the moment when the National Alliance emancipated itself from the historical fascism of Mussolini’s regime. Fascism is characterized by “an authoritarian regime that goes through the negation of democracy”, adds Gilles Ivaldi.

Giorgia Meloni is in “a post-fascist approach, but with much more ambiguity, nostalgia for fascism than the previous leaders of the National Alliance”, points out the political scientist. Its program is not fascist, in the sense that it does not seek to suppress democracy. “On the other hand, it has kept the authoritarian character of fascism, that is to say this idea that the government can constrain freedoms. She also has very conservative positions on religious and social issues. »

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“The legacy of the old politics of Italian fascism”

During her campaign, whose slogan was “god, family, fatherland”, she made traditionalist remarks on the role of women in society, supposed to stay at home while the man works. “It’s a very archaic, patriarchal vision, a legacy of the old politics of Italian fascism,” underlines Gilles Ivaldi. Its program, like that of La Ligue, is also rooted in the extreme right. They take up the three main elements: identity nationalism, authority/authoritarianism, and illiberalism, that is to say the weakening of the principles of representative democracy.

At Berlusconi and Forza Italia, the ultranationalist and eurosceptic dimension is not present in this way, although “the nuances are very fine since, basically, all this is drowned in this right-wing alliance”, analyzes the political scientist. This is why Meloni’s party is described in France as post-fascist, and its program placed on the extreme right on the political spectrum.

“It is easier in France to call things by their name”

“The French press is quite right,” said Paolo Levi, journalist and correspondent in Paris for the Italian news agency Ansa. To support his point, he recalls the results of the coalition parties: Fratelli d’Italia, the far-right post-fascist party, won with 26% of the vote, follows La Ligue by Matteo Salvini, also from the far right. , which won 8.8% of the vote. “The only party a little in the center is that of Silvio Berlusconi [à 8,1 %], he points. Calling it a “center-right coalition” would have been less ridiculous if Berlusconi had come out on top. For him, this is a “sort of denial” from the Italian media.

This difference in terminology between the two countries is above all linked to distinct political contexts. “In France, there is no political experience of an agreement between the right and the extreme right at the national level, explains Gilles Ivaldi. This makes it easier to call things by their name. » Cromprendre: differentiate right and extreme right. On the contrary, in Italy, the alliance between the right and the extreme right has existed for thirty years.

A term that dates back to the 1990s

Because in 1994, the first government of Silvio Berlusconi had the same components, details Gilles Ivaldi. It was made up of Forza Italia, the centre-right party therefore, dominating in the coalition and led by Silvio Berlusconi, with what remained of Christian Democracy. The League was one of them, headed by its founder, Umberto Bossi. Also present was the National Alliance, the ancestor of Fratelli d’Italia. “The term centre-right used in the Italian media comes from a time when it was effectively the centre-right that dominated the alliance, underlines the political scientist. Today, it’s the opposite, the internal balances are completely transformed: the extreme right dominates the alliance, but the term has remained, hence the confusion. »

A term that contributes to trivializing the far right, alerts the political scientist. “Beyond the use of the term centre-right, what is at stake in Italy is the normalization of relations between the right and the extreme right, which has been at work for more than thirty years”.

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