Silvio Berlusconi’s death will leave a vacuum in Italian politics ready to be filled by more far-right voters, according to experts.
In a recent interview, prominent Italian political analyst Lorenzo Castellani sounded the alarm bells for Forza Italia, Silvio Berlusconi’s political party and brainchild, predicting the party’s decline and a subsequent surge in support for both the League and Fratelli d’Italia. Castellani’s statements highlight a significant shift in the political landscape of Italy, with implications for both the current government and the upcoming European elections.
Castellani expressed concerns about the future of Forza Italia, warning that the party is in danger of disappearing altogether.
He suggested that this potential downfall could lead to a significant split in the conservative electorate, ultimately benefiting not only the League but, more notably, Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia.
Speaking to EURACTIV, he said: “Forza Italia is in danger of disappearing, and this will trigger a consensus split, to the advantage of the League but above all of Fratelli d’Italia. If I had to bet today, that Berlusconi’s 8 per cent (obtained in September’s general election) will go mostly to Meloni and only a small part to Salvini.”
He argued that if Meloni were to demonstrate a sign of openness, moving toward the centre and incorporating Forza Italia’s political agenda into the government’s programme, she could capture the support of the liberal electorate, which has traditionally aligned with Berlusconi’s party.
But he warned: “Meloni must occupy Berlusconi’s space. If she does not take this step, she risks the centrist parties taking the field.”
Looking ahead to the next European elections, Castellani painted a grim picture for Forza Italia. He suggested that with Silvio Berlusconi no longer at the helm, the party’s support could plummet from a projected seven per cent, to a mere three per cent.
Furthermore, Castellani warned that Forza Italia, under Antonio Tajani’s leadership, risked losing half of its current support base, which could significantly weaken the European People’s Party (EPP) overall.
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He said: “At the next European elections, with Berlusconi alive, Forza Italia could have taken seven per cent but now risks taking three per cent. The party in the hands of Antonio Tajani risks halving its consensus, and the EPP will find itself with a party worth half of what it is now.”
A onetime cruise ship crooner, Berlusconi used his television networks and immense wealth to launch his long political career, inspiring both loyalty and loathing.
To admirers, the three-time premier was a capable and charismatic statesman who sought to elevate Italy on the world stage. To critics, he was a populist who threatened to undermine democracy by wielding political power as a tool to enrich himself and his businesses.
His friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin put him at odds with Meloni, a staunch supporter of Ukraine. On his 86th birthday, while the war raged, Putin sent Berlusconi best wishes and vodka, and the Italian boasted he returned the favour by sending back Italian wine.
When former US President Donald Trump launched his political career, many drew comparisons to Berlusconi, noting they both had long business careers, sought to upend the existing political order, and grabbed attention for their over-the-top personalities and lavish lifestyles.
Meloni remembered Berlusconi “above all as a fighter.”
“He was a man who had never been afraid to defend his beliefs. And it was exactly that courage and determination that made him one of the most influential men in the history of Italy,” Meloni said on Italian TV.