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Far-right Meloni appointed Italy’s first female PM

Giorgia Meloni has agreed to form Italy’s next government, a presidential official says, clearing the way for her to become the country’s first woman prime minister.

Ms Meloni, head of the nationalist Brothers of Italy, led an alliance of conservative parties to victory at a September 25 election and will take charge of the country’s most right-wing government since World War Two.

“Giorgia Meloni has accepted the mandate and has presented her list of ministers,” the presidential official Ugo Zampetti told reporters after Meloni had consulted with President Sergio Mattarella in his Quirinale palace.

The new government will be formally sworn in on Saturday morning, after which it will face confidence votes in both houses of parliament next week.

Ms Meloni heads a coalition including Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Matteo Salvini’s League.

Italy’s 68th government since 1946 faces daunting challenges, including a looming recession, rising energy bills and how to present a united front over the Ukraine war.

It will replace a national unity government led by former European Central Bank head Mario Draghi, who attended a European Union summit in Brussels on Friday in one of his last acts as prime minister.

Although the process of putting together a new administration has been rapid by Italian standards, it has exposed tensions in the coalition, with Berlusconi repeatedly appearing to try to undermine Georgia Meloni’s authority.

Meloni’s teenage far-right ideals

Photo: Getty

Her heart steeped in far-right tenets, as a young teen Giorgia Meloni embarked on an ideological quest that has propelled her — 30 years later — to the height of government power.

The September 25 election victory of Brothers of Italy, a fast-growing, nationalist party with neo-fascist roots that she helped create a decade ago, gave her a springboard into the Italian premiership.

By forging coalition deals with right-wing and conservative allies, she created what will be Italy’s first far-right-led government since the end of World War II.

Scrappy and plain-talking, Ms Meloni, 45, stands out in the clubby world of Italian politics, which is dominated by men and characterised by decades of unkept promises. When she becomes premier, after Saturday’s swearing-in ceremony in the heart of Rome, she will be the first woman to lead Italy.

The last candidate who went on to become premier after a ballot was media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, who, with his conservative Forza Italia party, won 2008 election. Since then, Italian premiers have emerged from backroom deals before being tapped by Italy’s president.

Berlusconi tapped Giorgia Meloni to be his youth minister when she was 31, making her Italy’s youngest minister.

Her stint in government ended in 2011, when financial markets lost faith in Berlusconi during Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. He was replaced by economist Mario Monti, the type of premier that Ms Meloni abhors — a technocrat not chosen by voters.

In 2016 and while pregnant, she unsuccessfully ran to be mayor of Rome. In a patronising rebuke, Berlusconi commented “it’s clear to everybody that a mamma cannot dedicate herself to a job” as demanding as mayor of Italy’s problem-plagued capital.

Berlusconi, who for years surrounded himself with a bevy of younger women, chafed last week after she rebuffed one of his choices for her Cabinet. In a note he left in plain view for photographers, he described her as “presumptuous, bossy, arrogant, offensive.” Ms Meloni retorted that he left out one quality: that she’s resistant to blackmail.

Giorgia Meloni describes herself as brimming with right-wing fervour when, at 15, she phoned the Italian Social Movement, or MSI, a party founded by nostalgists for fascism following the demise of dictator Benito Mussolini’s regime.

She was directed to MSI’s youth office near her home in Rome’s working-class Garbatella neighbourhood, where, armed with glue and political posters, she plastered ideological messages on the streets.

In 2012, Giorgia Meloni created her own nationalist identity, founding the Brothers of Italy along with Ignazio La Russa and Guido Crosetto, both of whom are expected to remain key advisers. The Senate last week elected La Russa as its president.

In 2013, the novice party, which takes its name from the first words of Italy’s anthem, took 2.9 per cent of the vote for parliament. In 2018, the party won just over four per cent of the vote. Last month, Brothers of Italy became the top party, garnering 26 per cent of the vote.

Giorgia Meloni sees her nationalist party as a bulwark against international corporations, which she contends promote mass immigration to get foreigners who’ll work for low pay that Italians won’t accept.

She also champions sovereignty — which translates into her staunch support for Ukraine defending itself from Russia.

She has vowed to boost Italy’s birth rate, one of the world’s lowest. But in the decades before Italy’s “native” population can grow again, she says immigrants can come, especially if they are Christian and female.

Her stance of abortion – promising to “give women the right not to abort” – makes abortion rights advocates uneasy.

Ms Meloni has praised Poland’s right-wing government, which has cast the LGBTQ rights movement as a threat to that nation’s Catholic identity and its youth and tightened the country’s already highly restrictive abortion law.

She also hails Spain’s far-right Vox party as her own party’s “twin.” Spain’s third-largest party doesn’t recognise same-sex marriage, disdains gender equality and embraces the legacy of General Francisco Franco’s dictatorship.

A big fan of former US President Donald Trump, who came to power with his “Make America Great Again” mantra, Ms Meloni has similar ambitions for Italy.

Her own leadership will “re-write the destiny of the nation with a government strong, united and authoritative,” she tweeted recently.

 

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