From bank profits to migrants, Giorgia Meloni’s Italian government has been active on numerous fronts in its first year in office, but many measures seem more designed for show than lasting change.
The prime minister has sought to please her right-wing voters with a busy domestic programme, only to see proposals ruled unconstitutional, criticised as impossible to enforce, challenged under EU regulations, or watered down by parliament or her own ministers.
“The government has not done much,” said Gianfranco Pasquino, professor of political science at Bologna University.
Instead, it has “sometimes emphasised repressive elements which please the right”, without seeking to initiate structural reforms, he told AFP.
Claudio Cerasa, director of Il Foglio newspaper, put it more bluntly last month, accusing the government of “using laws not to govern but to make propaganda”.
It seems to be working, however, with opinion polls showing that 12 months after taking office, Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party is more popular than ever.
Top of the list was a surprise tax on profits made by Italian banks from rising interest rates, announced late one August evening only to be heavily watered down after bank shares plunged the next day.
That same night, ministers announced plans to cap tickets on flights to and from the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, prompting low-cost carrier Ryanair to complain to the EU.
Weeks later, the government quietly dropped the plan.
Elsewhere, a law currently being debated in parliament to extend Italy’s ban on surrogacy beyond its borders has been denounced as unconstitutional and unenforceable.
A totemic issue for Meloni’s coalition, which places huge importance on traditional family values, the law would open up to prosecution Italian couples — both straight and gay — who use a surrogate mother even in countries where surrogacy is legal.
On the hot button issue of mass migration, Meloni’s government has also announced a string of interventions, including the detention of irregular migrants and a clampdown on those posing as minors.
But two separate Sicilian judges have refused to apply one of the government’s decrees on migrants.
And the number of people arriving on Italy’s shores on boats from North Africa has almost doubled in the past year, according to interior ministry figures.
“It’s one thing to make political propaganda to gain votes and win elections, it’s another thing to govern,” noted Francesco Clementi, from Rome’s Sapienza University.
“The promises Meloni made as a politician, she cannot keep as prime minister.”
The format is often the same. A story dominates Italy’s news channels and newspapers, Meloni calls a cabinet meeting and they announce a new decree law to tackle the problem in question, from juvenile delinquency to the vandalism of public buildings.
Decree laws take effect immediately but must be approved by parliament within 60 days. Often they are amended, but by that time, the news cycle has moved on and what remains in the public eye is the original announcement.
Meloni is not the only prime minister to use decree laws, although analysts note she has relied on them more heavily than previous governments — despite having a healthy majority in parliament, meaning she should be able to pass laws relatively easily.
Antonio Nicita, vice president of senators of the opposition centre-left Democratic Party, noted that Meloni herself used to rail against the use of decree laws while in opposition.
He accused the government of trying to distract public attention from slowing economic growth and the lack of progress in reducing Italy’s colossal debt.
“The government is compensating for a poor socio-economic performance with ideological and populist interventions on crime and migrants,” he told AFP.
However, Meloni has defended her record, which also includes tax cuts and support for families and businesses hit by high inflation.
On Sunday, marking her one-year anniversary in office, Meloni acknowledged on Facebook that the road ahead was “still long and winding”.
“We’ll continue, with our heads held high, making those courageous choices that for too long were not made.”__Daily Times