Italy’s far-right leader Giorgia Meloni is the country’s first female prime minister


Giorgia Meloni on Friday formed Italy’s new governing coalition, giving the country its first far-right government since the end of World War II and becoming the first woman to be tapped to serve as the country’s prime minister.

A presidential palace official announced that Meloni and her cabinet would be sworn in on Saturday. Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, a party with neo-fascist roots, was the largest voter in Italy’s national elections last month.

Hours before the formation of the new government was announced, Meloni, 45, a career politician, told reporters that she and her allies had unanimously asked President Sergio Mattarella to give her the mandate to rule.

Obtaining the premiership capped a remarkably rapid rise for the Brothers of Italy. Meloni co-founded the party in December 2012 and for its early years was considered a fringe movement on the right.

Meloni made no public comments before leaving Quirinale’s presidential palace. Earlier in the day, she met Mattarella along with her two main, sometimes troublesome, right-wing allies: Matteo Salvini and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Mattarella told reporters the government was formed in “short time” after the September 25 elections. After the last elections, in 2018, it took three months for a new governing coalition to come together.

Rapidly giving the country a new government “was possible because of the clarity of the outcome of the vote and the need to act quickly, also because of the domestic and international conditions that require a government in all its fullness to carry out its duties.” said Mattarella.

Italy and much of the rest of Europe are grappling with rising energy costs and the drama of Russia’s war in Ukraine, which could cut gas supplies this winter and continue to raise household and business electricity bills.

Berlusconi and Salvini have long been admirers of Russian President Vladimir Putin; Meloni unshakably supports Ukraine in its defense against the Russian invasion. Those differences could pose challenges for their governing coalition.

Berlusconi, three-time prime minister, was shocked by Meloni’s party’s election victory. The Brothers of Italy won 26%, while Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Salvini’s anti-migrant league took in just over 8% each in an election with record-low turnout.

In 2018, when Italy held its previous parliamentary elections, Meloni’s party won just over 4%.

While her party’s members are the largest power in the Italian parliament, Meloni needs the support of her two allies to gain a solid majority.

Berlusconi, who considers herself a rare leader on the global stage, recently derided her as “arrogant” in written comments, apparently after Meloni refused to make a lawmaker, who is one of the media mogul’s closest advisers, minister.

During a meeting this week with Forza Italia lawmakers, the former prime minister expressed sympathy for Putin’s motivation to invade Ukraine. A recording of the conversation leaked to Italian news agency LaPresse also recorded that Berlusconi boasted that Putin had sent him bottles of vodka for his 86th birthday last month and that he gave the Russian leader bottles of wine as the two exchanged sweet notes.

Responding to Berlusconi’s comments, including derogatory comments about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Meloni urged that anyone who joins her government should align firmly with the West in opposing Putin’s war. If that meant her government couldn’t be formed, Meloni said, she’d take that risk.

As a bulwark against Ukraine’s possible hesitation by her coalition allies, Meloni appointed one of her closest advisers, the co-founder of the Brothers of Italy, Guido Crosetto, as defense minister.

She chose as Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, a top Berlusconi employee in Forza Italia and a former Speaker of the Parliament of the European Union. His pro-EU background may reassure European partners concerned about a Meloni government hesitating in its international alliances

Salvini has also at times questioned the wisdom of harsh Western sanctions against Russia. A fellow legislator in the Salvini’s League party, who was recently elected to chair the lower house of the Italian parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, has publicly expressed doubts about continuing the sanctions.

Salvini had lobbied hard for Meloni’s appointment as interior minister — a position he held in a 2018-2019 government formed by populists. Salvini’s crackdown on migrant lifeboats while in that position led to criminal charges against him, with one case still pending in Sicily.

Meloni instead chose a longtime Interior Ministry official, Matteo Piantedosi, as Interior Minister.

Outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s national pandemic unity coalition collapsed in July after Salvini, Berlusconi and the populist leader of the five-star movement Giuseppe Conte refused to support his government in a confidence vote. That prompted Mattarella to dissolve parliament and paved the way for an election about six months earlier.

While the latest efforts to form the new government were underway, Draghi was in Brussels, attending the last day of a European Council summit, where he struggled with ways to cope with higher energy prices.

On Thursday, Mattarella received opposition leaders expressing concerns that Meloni, who campaigned with a “God, homeland, family” agenda, would try to erode abortion rights and roll back rights such as same-sex civil unions.



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