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Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s arch-conservative Brothers of Italy group won the most votes in the European parliamentary election over the weekend, boosting her standing both at home and abroad.

With almost all ballots counted, Brothers of Italy won 28.8% of the vote, more than four times what it took in the last European Union election in 2019, and exceeding the 26% it secured in the 2022 national ballot, when it rose to power.

“I am proud that Italy will present itself to the G7, to Europe with the strongest government of all. This is something that has not happened in the past but is happening today, it is a satisfaction and also a great responsibility,” Meloni said early on Monday from the party’s headquarters.

The opposition centre-left Democratic Party came in second with 24% of the vote, while another opposition group, the 5-Star Movement, was third with 9.9% – its worst showing at a countrywide level since its creation in 2009.

The EU ballot indicated that Meloni’s ruling coalition, made up of parties that stretch from the centre-right to the far right of the political spectrum, saw its support climb to more than 47% from just under 43% in 2022.

“The results weren’t at all given, it is a resounding achievement and shows that all the parties of the majority have been able to grow together,” Meloni said later in the morning on RTL 102.5 Radio.

“It’s a spur for (the government) to move forward. Italians are giving us a loud and clear message to go ahead with our work … and if possible with greater determination.”

Forza Italia, founded by the late Silvio Berlusconi, was in fourth place with 9.7% of the vote, surpassing the anti-immigrant League, which had 9.1%, a disappointment for leader Matteo Salvini, who has pushed his party hard right, antagonising its old guard.

Underscoring tensions in the League, party founder Umberto Bossi voted for Forza Italia this time around, his allies told Italian media this weekend, sending a jolt through the group.

MELONI STRENGTH

Meloni’s party traces its roots back to a neo-fascist group, and her 2022 victory set the tone for far-right gains across Europe, including in the latest EU ballot, which has seen the continent swing right.

However, Meloni has moderated her image on the international stage, dropping her previous anti-EU rhetoric and presenting herself as a bridge between the mainstream centre-right and her own national conservative camp, which was previously shunned.

Her strong showing on Sunday came in stark contrast to setbacks suffered by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, whose parties were routed.

Speaking on radio, Meloni said, however, it was still too early to say whether she would back a second term for centre-right European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Her group of lawmakers might prove decisive should Meloni decide to back von der Leyen, potentially giving Rome leverage over the new EU executive.

“What we need is a Europe that will listen to citizens, that will look more to the centre-right and has more pragmatic and less ideological policies,” Meloni said, adding that, given the results, Italy would necessarily have a fundamental role.

Sunday also represented a big success for Meloni’s main opponent – Elly Schlein, who took charge of the centre-left PD party in 2023 and had struggled to impose her will on the old guard. The PD won 19% of the vote in 2022 and Schlein was anxious to improve on that.

The hard left Green and Left Alliance won around 6.7%, meaning that its candidate, Ilaria Salis, an Italian activist detained in Hungary for more than a year for allegedly assaulting far-right militants, is now an EU lawmaker.

The one disappointment for all parties was the turnout, which was just below 50%, initial data suggested, a record low in a country that has had historically strong voter participation.

(Reuters)

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