Italy’s Giorgia Meloni: an ambiguous figure with a tough job ahead

Far-right Brothers of Italy leader is now in charge of navigating economic crisis – and she’s wasting no time

From humble beginnings in Rome, Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s first female prime minister, has spent three decades forging her path to the pinnacle of government, with a steely determination that has stirred admiration even in some of her detractors.

But the leader of Brothers of Italy, a party with neofascist origins, is still a largely ambiguous figure now in charge of steering Italy through one of its most delicate periods, while keeping check on a cantankerous coalition.

Meloni, 45, wasted no time in accepting the mandate to form her government, which includes Matteo Salvini’s far-right League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, and within less than 24 hours presented her cabinet lineup and took the oath before the Italian president, Sergio Mattarella.

The prime minister has good reason to be in a hurry. Her first task will be finalising Italy’s budget for 2023, a procedure that has sparked clashes with the EU in the past, before sending it to Brussels for approval by the end of October. Italy has one of the highest levels of public debt in Europe, and Meloni told Reuters in August that she would be “responsible” with the country’s finances, despite her coalition’s campaign promises of steep tax cuts, an increase in pensions and a reduction in the retirement age.

Shielding households from a surge in energy bills will be another challenge, and it will now be up to Meloni to continue negotiations in Europe on a price gap on gas imported from Russia, a process started by former prime minister Mario Draghi, while ensuring Italy meets a long list of targets by the end of the year to ensure the country receives the next tranche of money due from its €200bn share of the EU’s coronavirus pandemic recovery fund.

Meloni has sought to present Brothers of Italy as a more moderate conservative party, albeit a champion of patriotism. In August, she declared the party had “handed fascism to history decades ago”. However, in the first formal step towards forming a government, Ignazio La Russa, a Brothers of Italy co-founder who collects fascist memorabilia, was appointed speaker of the senate. A day later, Lorenzo Fontana, an ultra-conservative League politician who is anti-gay and pro-Vladimir Putin, was elected lower house speaker.

Meloni has pledged that her coalition will be ardently pro-Nato and supportive of the EU’s sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. But it could be a difficult position to maintain as the war continues, given Salvini’s past admiration of Putin and criticism of the sanctions due to the impact they are having on Italian businesses, as well as Berlusconi’s revived friendship with the Russian president.

The new prime minister has hardline views on immigration and issues such as gay marriage, and while she says she is pro-European, like Salvini, her vision for Europe is more in tune with that of the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, and she will ultimately be working to prioritise Italy’s interests.

She is calling the shots within the coalition, but her powerful position does not sit well with either Berlusconi, the three-time former prime minister, or Salvini, who wanted to be prime minister himself, and with Italian governments traditionally being short-lived, it remains to be seen for how long coherence can be sustained.


Angela Giuffrida in Rome

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Tough, determined, fascinated by Mussolini: Rome neighbours recall Giorgia Meloni
Residents in traditionally leftwing Garbatella district not surprised by rise of woman poised to be Italy’s next PM

Angela Giuffrida in Garbatella

16, Sep, 2022 @2:26 PM

Article image
Giorgia Meloni appoints minister once pictured wearing Nazi armband
Brothers of Italy politician Galeazzo Bignami says he feels ‘profound shame’ over wearing swastika in 2005

Angela Giuffrida in Rome

01, Nov, 2022 @2:22 PM

Article image
Giorgia Meloni speaks of ‘burden’ of being Italy’s first female PM
Leader restates support for Ukraine and vows crackdown on illegal immigration in address to MPs

Angela Giuffrida in Rome

25, Oct, 2022 @4:15 PM

Article image
Giorgia Meloni may be no fascist. But she evokes grim memories of Italy’s past | John Foot
An election win for her Brothers of Italy would be a threat to democracy across Europe

John Foot

14, Aug, 2022 @8:30 AM

Article image
Pope prays for ‘unity and peace in Italy’ as Giorgia Meloni takes power
Country’s first female prime minister leads the most rightwing government since the second world war

Angela Giuffrida in Rome

23, Oct, 2022 @1:25 PM

Article image
Giorgia Meloni, the friendly face of Italy's surging far right
Leader of rightwing Brothers of Italy party cherishes hopes of becoming the nation’s first female prime minister

Angela Giuffrida in Rome

09, Feb, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
Italy: internal rivalry could threaten the stability of a Meloni-led coalition
Matteo Salvini has described Giorgia Meloni as a ‘pain in the ass’, while Silvio Berlusconi is rumoured to be unsupportive

Angela Giuffrida

25, Sep, 2022 @4:50 PM

Article image
Italy's Giorgia Meloni is no Mussolini – but she may be a Trump | Lorenzo Marsili
There’s nothing nostalgic about the far-right political space that the country’s new leader is trying to carve out in Europe, says philosopher Lorenzo Marsili

Lorenzo Marsili

28, Sep, 2022 @11:54 AM

Article image
‘She’s very charismatic’: could Giorgia Meloni become Italy’s first far-right leader since Mussolini?
Brothers of Italy leads far-right alliance in pole position for snap summer election

Angela Giuffrida in Ladispoli

24, Jul, 2022 @3:00 PM

Article image
Far-right favourite to be Italy’s next PM softens on EU as election looms
Giorgia Meloni once railed against Brussels, but experts suggest likely successor to Mario Draghi has no interest in rocking boat

Jennifer Rankin in Brussels

18, Sep, 2022 @2:13 PM