We have two covers this week. In Europe we ask how worried the world should be about the probable election this weekend of the most right-wing government in Italy’s post-war history. A three-party alliance is expected to win more than 60% of the seats in parliament; the Brothers of Italy (FdI) looks set to dominate the trio, and its leader, Giorgia Meloni, to take over as prime minister. The FdI has its roots in neo-fascism. In speeches Ms Meloni hammers away at illegal immigrants and “woke ideology”. Bankers fret that she will tangle with the European Union, go soft on reform and lose control of Italy’s mountainous debt stock ($2.7trn, or over 150% of GDP). And yet Ms Meloni has tried to soften her hardest edges. She has clearly stated that she has no plans to strike down the law that permits abortion, she no longer talks about scrapping the euro and she has committed herself to follow the reform plan drawn up by her predecessors and approved by the European Commission. Although Ms Meloni gives European leaders plenty to be anxious about, they should calmly accept Italy’s democratic decision to elect her, while privately warning her how damaging to both Italy and the EU a falling-out would be.
In the rest of the world we look at how the energy crisis and fresh alliances are making the Gulf more powerful—and more volatile. The region is in the midst of a $3.5trn energy bonanza, courtesy of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have the long-run goal of being the last men standing in oil production, enjoying the lowest costs and least-dirty extraction. Together, they aim to raise output from 13m barrels per day last year to 16m. Qatar wants to produce the equivalent of 33% of all the liquefied natural gas traded worldwide in 2021. The Middle East is also adapting to a multipolar world in which America is no longer a reliable guarantor of security. This is reflected in the Abraham accords, signed by Israel and two Arab states in 2020. The accords will help normalise relations in the region and develop common defences against Iranian drones and missiles, probably using Israeli technology. But it is also a bet that trade can make these countries richer in a region with puny cross-border links. The new-look Gulf is destined to remain pivotal for decades to come. Yet climate change, Iran and domestic politics mean that it may not be a source of stability.