Friday, 14 June 2024

The European Right’s two best leaders are women from Southern Europe

Tim Phillips By Tim Phillips | April 08, 2024 | United States

by Tim Phillips and Roberto Masiero

The right is poised for historic gains in the European Parliament elections fast approaching in early June. Recent elections and consistent polling trends indicate that European voters are tired of a sluggish economy with high inflation and a left-leaning governing class they no longer trust or relate to in any meaningful manner.

While American media focus mostly on Hungarian leader Viktor Orban, the actual leaders within the European right are two women from Southern Europe. The first is Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni with her Brothers of Italy Party. The second is Isabel Diaz Ayuso of the Popular Party, who is Spain’s elected leader in the Madrid region. Both women face major challenges in the coming months, but both are poised to lead in the long run.

Meloni is doing the seemingly impossible by bringing political stability to Italy, which has had 16 governments in just over 21 years. Her policies have helped make Italy’s economy one of the best in Europe. Her leadership style - forceful and principled but reasonable and achievement-minded has broadened her popularity at a time when most European political leaders are unpopular. Now, she’s the G7 leader for 2024 and will further burnish her influence and image by hosting the conference in Italy this summer. 

She has steered Italy’s right away from its long dalliance with Russia and supported NATO, which is crucial. With regard to China, Meloni has moved closer to the United States while stepping up scrutiny and opposition to the Asian giant’s predatory economic policies. Her careful pivot was made easier by China stonewalling information about the COVID virus for months while massive numbers of Chinese workers and tourists continued pouring into Northern Italy in late 2019 and early 2020, which contributed to the region being one of the hardest hit hotspots early in the pandemic. 

Meloni was patient in her rise to power, refusing to join left-of-center governments as a junior partner and thus avoiding their failures and the loss of her credibility. She outmaneuvered and outlasted the leaders of her two rival conservative parties in Italy to make her Brothers of Italy Party the dominant force in the long fractured politics of Italy. One of these rival parties on the right, which is now a junior partner in Meloni’s government, was led by the late Silvio Berlusconi, who for decades was the dominant figure on the right in Italy. 

Meloni’s challenges? First, continue providing the regulatory, tax, spending, and immigration policies that will allow Italy’s economy to flourish over the next two to three years as the national Italian election looms. Second, fend off attacks from the right that she has somehow “sold out” to the establishment in Brussels. Already, her coalition partner, Matteo Salvini, who heads the Lega per Salvini Party, joined French populist firebrand Marine Le Pen at a conference in Rome of all places to attack Meloni for supposedly cozying up to the European Union elites. Meloni will need to continue protecting her right flank, which is never as easy when you’re actually in power.

If Giorgia Meloni is the current leader of the right in Europe, then the leader with the potential still to be realized is 44 year old Isabela Diaz Ayuso. She’s a former journalist who burst on the national scene in Spain during the pandemic by aggressively pushing back in Madrid against the Socialist Party’s draconian Covid lockdown policies across the country. At the time of the pandemic’s emergence, Diaz Ayuso was simply a member of a center-right coalition government in the Madrid district. Her signature slogan was one simple word: “Libertad” or, in English: Freedom. 

A year later, in 2021, Diaz Ayuso called snap elections as she claimed her coalition partner (the Citizens Party) was undercutting her efforts to battle the national government’s lockdown policies. In the resulting election, Diaz Ayuso’s Popular Party more than doubled its legislative numbers in a smashing victory that gave her an even stronger platform from which to battle the national Socialist government. 

The Popular Party appeared set to win Spain’s national elections in 2023, with the boring but reliable Alberto Nunez Feijoo leading the way and Diaz Ayuso in a secondary role. However, in an upset last June, the Popular Party failed to win enough votes to form a government, and the Socialists were able to retain power by cutting a controversial deal with Catalonian legislators who had supported succeeding from Spain. 

The Popular Party’s national loss only strengthened the hand of Diaz Ayuso, as most within her party believed a decisive victory would have been won if she had been the national leader of the party. Today, Diaz Ayuso is the Popular Party’s most galvanizing leader, and she is a popular speaker across Europe and really the world for liberty-minded parties and organizations. 

However, she faces challenges as well. First, her romantic partner has been implicated in a tax fraud scheme. Opponents on the left and intra-party detractors on the right are aggressively going after Diaz Ayuso. For her part, Diaz Ayuso says their finances are separate and that she knew nothing of his business dealings. The second challenge is maintaining a strong governing record in the Madrid legislature until the next national elections, when she would be expected to be her party’s national nominee. 

Our analysis is that both Giorgia Meloni and Isabela Diaz Ayuso will overcome their challenges and continue their leadership rise as their parties and the right in general eye a big win in the upcoming European parliamentary elections.

The co-author, Tim Phillips, is a Republican strategist and consultant with long experience at the presidential, senatorial, and congressional levels. He has appeared regularly in major media publications and across all the major television networks. His current company is Hyperfocal. From 2006 through 2021, he was President of Americans for Prosperity. He is actually on the board of Renaissance Evolution. 

Roberto Masiero, the co-author, is an entrepreneur and cultural diplomat. He is the Founder and President of Renaissance Evolution and the founder and Chairman of Bee Technology Group. Renaissance Evolution is an American-based foundation dedicated to bridging cultural divides to help businesses and governments become more successful, promoting the ideals that inspired The Italian Renaissance in today’s world. Masiero is a Doctor of Humanities.



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