ROME — Giorgia Meloni has been named Italy’s first female prime minister to lead a right-wing government, after talks with the country’s president.
After a week of infighting that overshadowed negotiations, Meloni’s belligerent coalition presented a united front, backing Meloni to lead the country in formal talks with President Sergio Mattarella on Friday.
Later Friday, Mattarella asked Meloni to form a government.
Meloni, after arriving for interviews in a Fiat 500, agreed unconditionally, a spokesperson for the president’s office said. The right-wing coalition emerged triumphant from the election, with 44% of the vote, led by Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which won 26%.
But even before a government could be formed, a rivalry arose within the coalition, with allies squabbling over Meloni’s reluctance to accept Silvio Berlusconi’s favored cabinet appointments.
At the opening of the new parliament, Berlusconi, leader of the Forza Italia party, said in a note left in public view that he found Meloni “authoritarian… overbearing… arrogant… offensive”.
No sooner were the peace talks concluded than Berlusconi was recorded claiming that President Volodymyr Zelensky was responsible for the Russian invasion of Ukraine and affirming his friendship with Vladimir Putin.
Meloni responded by saying that anyone who disagrees with his pro-Europe, pro-NATO orientation “cannot be in government, even if it means not forming government.”
Despite the clashes, the right has reconciled to take over from the new Italian government. Meloni met the president on Friday alongside fellow right-wing bloc leaders Matteo Salvini, head of the League, and Berlusconi.
Meloni is due to name his team on Friday with the new cabinet sworn in on Saturday and a vote of confidence in parliament on Tuesday.
His team must immediately roll up their sleeves, work to deadlines such as the budget, which must be sent to Europe for approval by the end of the month, and the recovery plan, the post-pandemic economic aid package. of the EU. Some 55 targets and milestones must be achieved by the end of the year to unlock nearly €20 billion in funding for Italy under the scheme.
The new government’s priority will be to tackle a cost of living crisis exacerbated by soaring energy prices and rising interest rates, which are weighing on Italy’s heavy public debt.
Acting Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who was ousted in July, has tried to ease the transition, pushing for a cap on energy prices in Europe and establishing narrow buffers in the budget.
Draghi, in his last press conference at the head of the Italian government, said: “Italy must be at the center of the European project with the credibility, authority and determination that befits a great country like ours” .
But Meloni’s new team will likely struggle to reconcile the costly campaign promises it made on pensions and tax cuts with economic reality. A recession is predicted for next year.
European leaders have indicated they are ready to work with Meloni’s government.
At the end of the European Council in Brussels, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz declared: “We are all together as European nations within the EU and it is essential that we, the democracies, cooperate a lot”.
“Every time there is a change of government because of the elections, like [happens] in a democracy, this cannot change the good relations we have with the other Member States or, for example, that we have between Germany and Italy… We will continue to work with very good cooperation between the countries and in the sphere of the European Trade Union.”
French President Emmanuel Macron said: “I am ready to work with Meloni.” Macron is traveling to Rome on Sunday and Monday to meet President Mattarella and Pope Francis, and said he could also meet Meloni then. “We will see on Monday depending on institutional developments, in compliance with the protocol,” he said.