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Giorgia Meloni. Facebook/Reddit screenshot of poll showing most Italians against arming Ukraine.

Giorgia Meloni calls for a naval blockade off Libya

Like every summer, a massive influx of asylum seekers is spurring on the political discussion in Italy. And the issue is once again grist to the mills of the right-wing opposition. Just a few years ago, Matteo Salvini, then Interior Minister of the Lega, was able to count on the approval of an overwhelming majority of Italians for his rigid measures against illegal immigration.

Published: August 12, 2022, 10:01 am

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    Currently the chairwoman of Fratelli d’Italia, Giorgia Meloni, is benefiting from the situation. She makes no secret of the fact that if she wins the early parliamentary elections in September she is aiming for the post of head of government.

    Meloni has been making a name for herself by calling for a ship blockade off the Libyan coast to deal with the current influx of migrants. “The best solution to the problem of migration is to block departures,” Meloni said in an interview with Italian radio station 102-5.

    “Many claim that a naval blockade cannot be carried out because it is similar to an act of war. Why has the EU never attempted to negotiate with Libya to agree a stop-departure?” Meloni wanted to know. She spoke out in favor of setting up hotspots in Africa to decide who has the right to come to Europe as an asylum seeker. “You can negotiate with the Libyan authorities,” Meloni explained.

    Meloni is eyeing top post

    Her party, Fratelli d’Italia, which, unlike Lega and Forza Italia, was not involved in the recent disastrous government coalition under the resigning Prime Minister Draghi, is currently the strongest single party in the centre-right bloc according to the latest polls. Should the centre-right coalition win the general election on September 25 and the Fratelli d’Italia emerge as the strongest single party, Meloni is entitled to the post of prime minister.

    “The rules are well known in the centre-right camp. The party that receives the most votes in the coalition proposes the name of the prime minister. That name will be me if Fratelli d’Italia emerges from the elections as the strongest single party,” said Meloni.

    The centre-right camp made up of Meloni’s FdI, Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and ex-Interior Minister Salvini’s Lega are currently way ahead in polls. According to polls, the Fratelli d’Italia could get 23 percent of the votes.

    Illegal immigrants equals right-wing votes

    Thus, for the Italian right-wing, the massive influx of illegal immigrants is a boon. Not only Giorgia Meloni, but the former Italian interior minister and Lega leader Salvini is also focusing on the problem of asylum seekers.

    Salvini even paid a visit to the island of Lampedusa, which is the first port of call on EU territory for many illegal immigrants. He previously declared: “Italy cannot take in tens of thousands of immigrants who will only bring problems. Italy is not the refugee camp of Europe.”

    Salvini accused the government in Rome of trying to cover up the problem before his arrival. AFP journalists saw around 200 asylum seekers board a ferry to Sicily while the reception center was being cleaned up, apparently a cosmetic measure before Salvini’s arrival.

    When he was interior minister in 2019, Salvini, as part of his “closed ports” policy, prevented so-called aid ships carrying migrants from going ashore in Italy. In polls, Salvini’s Lega is currently around 13 percent – behind the 23 percent of the Fratelli d’Italia.

    Meanwhile, there are no signs of the influx subsiding. The Interior Ministry in Rome has counted more than 42 000 arrivals so far this year, up from almost 30 000 in the same period in 2021. Thousands of new illegal migrants are arriving almost weekly, most with the help of ostensible “sea rescuers”.

    Matteo Salvini speaking with voters. Facebook/Giorgia Meloni holding up a placard demanding snap elections. Facebook

    The left is playing the Russia card to divide conservatives

    Because political observers believe it is likely that the right-wing bloc of Fratelli d’Italia, Lega and Forza Italia will win Italy’s snap parliamentary elections and form the next Italian government, there are already many outraged comments on the left and in the media.

    Meloni is therefore trying to dispel fears in advance. In a video message in three languages, she has now assured that her party will not pose a threat to the US or Ukraine if she comes to power. In the video message, available in English, French and Spanish, Meloni called fears about her party’s post-fascist roots “nonsense” and said such views were “inspired by powerful media on the left”.

    “The Italian right handed fascism to history decades ago, unequivocally condemning the suppression of democracy and the shameful anti-Jewish laws,” she said in the video recording, which was posted on Facebook and also sent to foreign media. “We firmly oppose any anti-democratic tendency with a determination not always found on the Italian and European left,” she added.

    But complaints about fascism ring hollow, especially against the fervent Ukrainian support for Nazi figure Stepan Bandera.

    Born in Rome, Meloni underscored her party’s commitment to the West and her condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine – a contentious issue in the right-wing party bloc. Ex-Interior Minister Salvini and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of the right-wing conservative Forza Italia are reputed to have good relations with the Kremlin.

    Meloni also denied all speculation about Italy leaving the euro. Nor would a right-wing government led by her under any circumstances endanger Italy’s financial stability.

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