From fringe leader to favourite: Italians set to elect first female prime minister

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Italy is set to elect Giorgia Meloni as its first female prime minister when the country goes to the polls on Sunday in its first general election since 2018. Meloni, a former journalist and right-wing conservative activist, has enjoyed a meteoric rise in politics since her days of teenage activists.

She won her first local election aged 21 and was the country’s youngest minister at 31. Meloni’s success has been widely attributed to his steely determination and unwillingness to compromise.

“She’s a relatively young woman and she has very direct and effective rhetoric,” Carlo Bastasin, nonresident scholar and European expert at the Brookings Institution, told Fox News Digital. “She manages to combine reassuring dialectical elements while maintaining a provocative tone that makes her seem different from the standard politician. Being female and young takes her away from the post-fascist cliché: virile and nostalgic.”

Recent polls have consistently shown that a coalition comprising several right-wing parties, including Meloni’s Brothers of Italy (FDI), Forza Italia and Lega, leads their opponents with more than 25% of voters backing them.

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party, speaks at a rally. Italians will go to the polls on September 25.
(Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)


While support from other right-wing parties has dwindled due to their participation in Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s coalition government, Meloni’s party, which has remained outside the government, has seen its support increase. This increased support from voters, and from within the coalition, put Meloni in a position to be Italy’s first female prime minister.

Italy’s political right has been helped by rifts within the main centre-left party, where attempts by the main Democratic party to form a broad coalition have crumbled. Italian politics favoring political parties capable of forming broad coalitions and allying with other right-wing parties has put Meloni’s party in a strong position to potentially form such a coalition, if opinion polls are to be followed.

The right-wing coalition was able to coalesce calling for across-the-board tax cuts, opposed by their Democratic counterparts who have only offered tax cuts for low-income groups, in addition to addressing concerns about the rising cost of living.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi during the July 12, 2022 press conference in Rome.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi during the July 12, 2022 press conference in Rome.
(Massimo Di Vita/Archivio Massimo Di Vita/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

Some observers say Meloni has also taken a stand against Russia, while others in Italy and Europe have not. She pushed for increased military spending in the face of Russian aggression, backed tough sanctions on Moscow, and showed strong support for Italy’s transatlantic alliances, while continuing to adopt traditional policies, including a stricter border security, opposition to gender-based policies and support for national institutions within the European Union.

The Associated Press reported that another issue that has generated interest is whether Meloni will abide by Italian law that legalizes abortion during the first four months of a pregnancy or later if the health or life of the mother is in danger. Meloni insisted she would abide by the law, but with the understanding that women who decide to give birth receive help.

Indeed, the first challenges of a Meloni government will be to obtain a majority in both chambers within a streamlined parliament. Building an Italian coalition is a notoriously slow process but, with a sufficiently decisive political victory, it may not take the three months it took in 2018 to form a government.

Italy's President Sergio Mattarella, right, and Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini are seen during the Carabinieri cadet swearing-in ceremony in Turin on July 23, 2022.

Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella, right, and Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini are seen during the Carabinieri cadet swearing-in ceremony in Turin on July 23, 2022.
(Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)


The Republic of Italy has been known for its political instability since its founding in 1946. Since 2011, Italy has had six different prime ministers, including Giuseppe Conte, who served two different terms from 2018 to 2021.


“It is true that Italian coalitions are inherently unstable. Governing in Italy means paying a high price in terms of popular consensus and this may be acceptable to those who, like Meloni, in the event of victory, will have the leadership of the government.”, declared Bastasin who warned that “on the contrary, the allies will be tempted to leave the coalition after the first months, because they will bear a political cost without equivalent benefit”.

The new parliament will meet on October 13. Once that happens, President Sergio Mattarella can begin talks with party leaders to discuss forming a government.

Italians go to the polls on September 25.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this story.


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