Finally, he made it. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi finally indicated – or at least he tried to – his heir; the one who shall succeed him in guiding ‘Go Italy’ (Forza Italia), Berlusconi’s right-wing party founded in the mid-nineties.

But who is Antonio Tajani? And why should he succeed in restoring Berlusconi’s political legacy?

In fact, Tajani is not the first politician who has been identified as Berlusconi’s rightful successor. Nonetheless, there are several reasons explaining why he might have the best chances to lead the bleeding Italian conservatives – and eventually seize power by 2023-. Thus, provided that former fellowmen Fini, Alfano and Parisi all substantially failed in the attempt to replace Berlusconi’s leading role.

First, Tajani is the present President of the EP. This might put him in the best position when it will be necessary to negotiate more flexible conditions with the leading powers in Europe – namely France and Germany – compared to the other party leaders in Italy. Moreover, his career in Brussels, far away from Rome, did also secure him from being involved in the scandals which have contributed to downfall of Berlusconi in 2011. Indeed, Berlusconi’s out-fashioned and controversial reputation has undoubtedly played an important role in the rise of Salvini’s far-right ‘League’ in the 2018 elections.

Tajani’s authority among Italy’s primary partners and his capacity to be a capable interlocutor with respect to Italy’s industry and the international markets – a skill which apparently Minister Luigi Di Maio has not – may be combined with his anti-populistic approach from a right-wing point of view. This should prevent him from being associated with the left-wing liberal factions better represented by the Italian Democratic Party of former PM Matteo Renzi: the real looser of the 2018 ballots.

The first testing bench for the “Tajani effect” will be the coming elections for the renewal of the European Parliament in May 2019, where populist parties all over Europe are expected to realize their greatest political result ever. This might be a difficult challenge for Antonio Tajani, also in the light of the fact that he himself did never achieve great victories in the municipal elections in the city of Rome, where he has been his party’s coordinator de facto in the past twenty years.

But will Antonio Tajani be the saviour of the Italian moderates? The question still remains an open one.

Ludovico Lenners


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