Italy is set to elect its first female prime minister, a conservative arsonist


Giorgia Meloni, leader of Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy), could become Italy’s first female prime minister in an anticipated right-wing wave at the polls on Sunday.

Europe’s attention is directed to Rome, where this potential is first joined by the fear that Meloni is restoring an ideology that has not been seen in Italy since World War II. Pollsters expect Sunday’s vote to deliver a conservative coalition in parliament, with the government led by Meloni as prime minister.

An arch-conservative of Italian politics, Meloni entered politics at the age of 15 in 1992, joining the neo-fascist Social Movement, a group with a pronounced sympathy for Benito Mussolini, the country’s dictator from 1925 to 1945. Fratelli d’Italia’s party imagery evokes Italy’s fascist past. , but Meloni rejected the associations, presenting his proposal for a conservative coalition as a nationalist project that would recover power in Brussels.

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy political party and president of the European Conservatives and Reformists Party, holds a closing speech during the election campaign in Bagnoli, Italy, September 23, 2022.

Pasquale Gargano/Pacific Press via ZUMA Press

A Meloni government would represent a major shift in the tide of the technocratic government held by former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi. Meloni’s party was the sole opponent of Draghi’s coalition, which fell in July after maintaining a hard line on consensus issues within the European Union, including sending arms to Ukraine and Russia’s sanction.

Observers say the EU’s battle lines could realign, with Italy, one of the bloc’s founders and its third-largest economy, moving closer to Hungary and Poland than to Germany and the EU. France.

The collapse of Draghi’s government in July plunged Italy into a familiar political tumult, and a fragmented left wing, comprising the centre-left Democratic Party and the populist Five Star Movement, failed to coalesce with a pre-election pact . Democratic Party leader Enrico Letta has consistently trailed in the polls and is expected to split the Liberal ballots with Five Star voters and a “Third Pole” coalition.

The right, however, joined forces. Polls indicate Meloni will be Tory’s top finisher on Sunday; His government’s junior partners would be League leader Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi, the head of centre-right Forza Italia. Berlusconi, the media mogul and conservative firebrand, came to power in 1994 and won three terms as prime minister, altogether the longest serving post-war prime minister. Salvini was seen as the behind-the-scenes curator of Palazzo Chigi, while Meloni had run the smaller Fratelli d’Italia, away from the mainstream.

PICTURED: Matteo Salvini, Silvio Berlusconi, Giorgia Meloni and Maurizio Lupi attend the closing rally of the centre-right election campaign in Piazza del Popolo in Rome, September 22, 2022.

Matteo Salvini, Silvio Berlusconi, Giorgia Meloni and Maurizio Lupi attend the closing rally of the centre-right electoral campaign in Piazza del Popolo in Rome, on September 22, 2022.

Images by Mario Cartelli/SOPA via Shutterstock

Analysts attribute Meloni’s overreach to his staunchly anti-Putin and pro-NATO stance. Berlusconi, a longtime friend of Putin, squarely echoed the Kremlin’s war narrative. Salvini hesitated to continue sending weapons to Kyiv.

During the two-month campaign sprint, Meloni worked to assuage fears about the Conservative coalition, including those she herself created. If more pugilist towards Brussels than his recent predecessors, Meloni does not propose a divorce from the EU or an exit from the euro, which is supported by more than 70% of Italians. She tempered her past hostile tones toward LGBT rights and abortion rights.

With rising energy costs hitting Italians particularly hard and wages long stagnating in the country, Meloni delivered his economic message, focusing on tax cuts and investments in nuclear power. .

PICTURED: Democratic Party leader Enrico Letta speaks during the party's final rally ahead of Sunday's elections in Rome, September 23, 2022.

Democratic Party leader Enrico Letta speaks during the party’s final rally ahead of Sunday’s elections in Rome, September 23, 2022.

Alessandra Tarantino/AP

Anticipation of a far-right surge in Rome, which would closely follow Tuesday’s stunning election victory by the Swedish Democrats, a party with neo-Nazi origins, has already prompted sharp remarks from Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission. Von der Leyen was not keen to veil Brussels’ posture towards a government that could act to overthrow democracy.

“If things go in a difficult direction, I’ve talked about Hungary and Poland, we have tools,” von der Leyen told students in the United States on Thursday. The Commission has recommended applying a measure of internal sanctions to Hungary for the corruption it alleges.

Potential clashes with the EU will not be on the agenda if the right-wing coalition wins a majority of votes on Sunday. Before they can govern, the Tories will have to organize a government behind Meloni in a process that could take weeks.

Fratelli d’Italia won 4.4% of the vote in the 2018 legislative elections, the last time Italians went to the polls. After the votes were counted on Sunday, barring a major disruption to the ballot, it is poised to become the country’s main political party.

ABC News

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