Far-right Giorgia Meloni asks permission to be Italy's next leader
Giorgia Meloni on brink of leading Italy’s first far-right government since WW2 and becoming its female PM as she asks to form an administration
- Giorgia Meloni and Brothers of Italy party emerged winners from Italy’s election
- But she does not have overall majority, meaning she needed to form a coalition
- Meloni today asked permission to form government after talks with her allies
- President Sergio Mattarella could grant her that right as early as this afternoon
Far-right politician Giorgia Meloni looks set to become Italy’s next leader after officially asking the President for the right to form a government.
Meloni and her post-fascist Brothers of Italy party emerged the winners of last month’s election, but – short of an overall majority – she needed to negotiate a coalition with allies including Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.
The 45-year-old went to the Quirinal Palace Friday morning to tell President Sergio Mattarella that negotiations were over and she is ready to form an administration.
Mr Mattarella could give approval as early as this afternoon, making Ms Meloni Italy’s first ever female leader, giving Italy its first far-right government since the Second World War, and taking Brothers of Italy into power for the first time.
Giorgia Meloni went to Italy’s presidential palace today to ask permission to form the country’s next government with herself as the leader
Meloni told President Sergio Mattarella that she had negotiated a working majority with allies Matteo Salvini (right) and Silvio Berlusconi (left)
Her election comes after a turbulent time in Italian politics as messy coalitions formed and fell apart before technocrat Mario Draghi was appointed to take control of the economy until an election could be held.
Summing up the reason for Ms Meloni’s election last month, one exasperated pensioner told journalists: ‘She’s the only one we haven’t tried yet – which means she’s the only one yet to fail.’
But Meloni’s success is far from assured. She staunchly backs Ukraine in its war with Russia, but coalition partners Mr Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini – leader of the Lega Nord party – have voiced sympathies for Putin.
Tensions over the issue are said to have hobbled coalition talks, with leaked audio appearing to show Berlusconi discussing his ties to Moscow and view that Ukraine started the war.
However, in public he has been keen to insist his views are in lockstep with Ms Meloni and the European Union
What bonds all three candidates are shared Eurosceptic views and a desire to see immigration to Italy greatly reduced.
Ms Meloni would lead a three-partner coalition with Mr Berlusconi (centre) and Mr Matteo (right) despite their differing views on the war in Ukraine
Meloni’s coalition wants to renegotiate Italy’s part of the EU’s post-Covid recovery fund, arguing the almost 200 billion euros it expects to receive should take into account the current energy crisis, exacerbated by Moscow’s invasion.
But the funds are tied to a series of reforms only just begun by outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and analysts say she has limited room for manoeuvre.
Meloni had campaigned on a platform of ‘God, country and family’, sparking fears of a regression on rights in the Catholic-majority country.
She has distanced herself from her party’s neo-fascist past – and her own, after praising dictator Benito Mussolini as a teenager – and presented herself as a straight-talking but unthreatening leader.
Flanked by Mr Berlusconi and Mr Salvini at the presidential palace in Rome today, Ms Meloni said: ‘We have indicated myself as the person who should be mandated to form the new government.
‘We are ready and we want to move forward in the shortest possible time.’
Ms Meloni cited urgent problems ‘at both national and international level’ – apparent references to soaring energy prices afflicting households and businesses and the war in Ukraine.
Forza Italia president Mr Berlusconi and League leader Mr Salvini stayed silent during Ms Meloni’s brief remarks to reporters.
Three-time premier Mr Berlusconi has been chafing over the election victory by Ms Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party in the past month.
He recently derided Ms Meloni as ‘arrogant’ in written comments. Earlier this week in a meeting with his legislators, Mr Berlusconi expressed sympathy for Mr Putin’s motivation for invading Ukraine.
In response to Mr Berlusconi’s comments that were also derogatory about Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky, Ms Meloni insisted that anyone joining her government must be solidly in synch with the West in opposing Putin’s war.
If that meant her government could not be formed, Ms Meloni said, she would take that risk.
Mr Salvini has at times also questioned the wisdom of tough Western sanctions against Russia.
A fellow legislator in Mr Salvini’s League party who was recently elected president of the lower Chamber of Deputies has publicly expressed doubts about continuing the measures.
Outgoing premier Mario Draghi’s national pandemic unity coalition collapsed in July, after Mr Salvini, Mr Berlusconi and populist 5-Star Movement leader Giuseppe Conte refused to back his government in a confidence vote.
That prompted Mr Mattarella to dissolve parliament and pave the way for elections some six months early.
While final efforts to form the new government were under way, Mr Draghi was in Brussels, attending the final day of a European Council summit, grappling with ways to deal with higher energy prices.
Giorgia Meloni’s Italian revolution: How victorious far-right leader has vowed to boost Italy’s population, crack down on migrant boat landings and continue backing for Ukraine
She has won over the Italian public with her dogged campaign focusing on ‘God, country and family’.
And now Giorgia Meloni has the chance to forge the country in her own image after becoming its largest party, making her the presumptive prime minister of a right-wing coalition.
While the unmarried mother-of-one has been slammed as an ‘heir to Mussolini’ and a neo-fascist, the firebrand has tried to shrug off the labels and appeal to all Italians.
Throughout the election, she has focused on the importance of religion and the family unit, railing against the EU and ‘woke ideology’.
She has courted controversy for slamming the ‘LGBT lobby’, suggesting she is against abortions, and proposing to blockade Libya to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean.
The influence of her minor coalition partners, Matteo Salvini of the anti-immigrant Lega party and the more moderate Silvio Berlusconi of Forza Italia, could also have a bearing on her leadership.
Here, MailOnline takes a look at what the new leader has vowed to do for Italy.
While Meloni has backed for the West’s policies on Ukraine, coalition partners Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi have praised Putin (pictured together)
While Meloni has backed for the West’s policies on Ukraine, coalition partners Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi have questioned the use of sanctions against Moscow and expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin in the past.
Meloni herself also congratulated Putin for his election win in 2018 but has now taken a stronger stance against the tyrant who has rocked Europe with his savage invasion of Ukraine.
The coalition programme has committed to respect NATO pledges and backs all attempts to find a solution to the war.
Meloni also backs supplying arms so Ukraine can defend itself.
The politician used to advocate leaving the EU’s single currency but she has now moderated her stance.
She has committed to the ‘full adherence to the European integration process’ but wants a ‘more political and less bureaucratic’ bloc.
She has also called for a review of EU rules on public spending and wants to promote Judeo-Christian values across the union.
Her technocratic predecessor Mario Draghi was a key Eurocentric figure, and Meloni’s victory risks upsetting the EU at a time when the bloc is already fragile, following Brexit and the departure of Angela Merkel.
Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank, pushed Rome to the centre of EU policy-making during his 18-month stint in office, forging close ties with Paris and Berlin.
In Europe, the first to hail Meloni’s victory were hard-right opposition parties in Spain and France, and Poland and Hungary’s national conservative governments which both have strained relations with Brussels.
Meloni says Rome must stand up more for its national interests and has backed Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in his battles with Brussels.
For years, the right wing has crusaded against unbridled immigration, after hundreds of thousands of migrants reached Italy’s shores aboard smugglers’ boats or vessels that rescued them in the Mediterranean Sea.
Both Meloni and Salvini have thundered against what they see as an invasion of foreigners not sharing what they call Italy’s ‘Christian’ character.
Last month, Meloni was slammed for sharing a video of a Ukrainian woman being raped by an asylum seeker in an Italian city, in a bid to whip up anti-migrant hysteria.
Migrants on board a wooden boat sail close to the Italian island of Lampedusa, in the Mediterranean Sea
A 55-year-old woman was assaulted on a pavement in the city of Piacenza early Sunday by an asylum seeker from Guinea, local officials said.
Meloni, tweeted the video saying: ‘A hug to this woman. I will do everything I can to restore security to our cities.’
She has vowed to bring an end to the influx of migrants, a position she shares with Salvini, who is currently on trial for blocking charity rescue ships when he was interior minister in 2019.
She is seeking to target in particular traffickers’ boats coming from Libya to Italy and the granting of automatic citizenship to babies born to foreign parents.
She wants the Italian navy to blockade the north African coast so that all migrants can be screened before leaving to ascertain whether they are genuine refugees.
Those who can prove their refugee status should be allowed through, Meloni said, while those who cannot should be sent home.
Speaking to a TV channel owned by the Berlusconi family, she said: ‘The problem of migrant arrivals on our shores must be tackled at its source, with a “naval blockade”.’
Likening the plan to EU proposals to get tough on border security, she added: ‘[This] is no different than a European mission to negotiate together with Libya, the possibility to block the inflatable boats during their departure.’
Meloni has also pledged to establish EU-run centres outside the bloc to manage asylum applications to the continent
But Meloni’s plans came under attack by political opponents, who said any attempt to blockade the shores of a foreign nation would be a de-facto declaration of war.
‘Meloni, do you know that under international law it is considered an act of war,’ tweeted former house speaker Laura Boldrini.
‘Do you know that more ships would be required than the navy has? Do you know the number of dead would outnumber those rejected?’
Meloni said: ‘Uncontrolled immigration is what ordinary people worry about. It impacts on those in the lower level of society.
‘Those who defend open borders, they live on the higher level. A country must be able to decide who comes in.’
She doesn’t care if Italy’s Left-wing press vilifies her for her views, as highlighted by a speech she made in Spain to their Right-wing Vox party a few weeks ago.
She reportedly told the rally, with some vigour: ‘Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology,’ before adding, her voice rising to a crescendo: ‘No to the violence of Islam, yes to safer borders, no to mass immigration, yes to working for our people.’
Meloni has also pledged to establish EU-run centres outside the bloc to manage asylum applications to the continent.
She also wants more integrated migration for those who do come to Italy legally, with programmes intended to encourage a more harmonious society.
Among her major policies are big cuts on income tax, VAT and business taxes.
Like much of Europe, Italy is suffering rampant inflation while an energy crisis looms this winter, linked to the conflict in Ukraine.
The Italian economy, the third largest in the eurozone, is also saddled with a debt worth 150 percent of gross domestic product.
She has emphasised fiscal prudence, despite her coalition’s call for tax cuts and higher social spending.
Family purchasing power will be protected despite soaring inflation, and pensions and benefits will be revaluated.
She wants to make full use of the £195billion allotted under the EU’s Covid recovery plan to reduce the tax burden for families, businesses and the self-employed who will receive a flat tax.
At the same time, she wants to renegotiate the grant, seeking more money from the bloc on account of the Russia-Ukraine war and the energy crisis which has exacerbated the previous economic issues.
Russian gas accounts for 40 per cent of Italy’s imports and she wants to increase its production of renewable energy, and consider nuclear power plants.
One of Meloni’s biggest obstacles has been her outspoken statements on abortion and the LGBT community as she vows to restore the family unit.
At political rallies Meloni has fiercely denounced what she calls ‘gender ideology’ and ‘the LGBT lobby’.
Federico Mollicone, her culture spokesperson, said last week that same-sex parenting was not normal, triggering outrage.
Speaking in a television interview with San Marino’s Rtv late on Thursday, Mollicone revived criticism he had previously expressed of an episode of the popular children’s cartoon ‘Peppa Pig’ that featured a polar bear with two mothers.
A pro-LGBT protester storms Meloni’s stage holding a rainbow flag in Cagliari earlier this month
‘It is a very serious issue,’ Mollicone said. ‘As long as the Italian state does not legislate on these couples, presenting them as something absolutely normal is wrong, because it is not.’
He went on to say that ‘in Italy homosexual couples are not legal, are not allowed’ – despite the country having legalised same-sex civil unions in 2016 with a reform that FdI opposed in parliament.
After the criticism of his comments Mollicone clarified on Friday that he was referring only to gay couples who adopt. He insisted that his party now supports civil unions and ‘is against all discrimination.’
Two weeks ago he caused a stir when he said the ‘Peppa Pig’ episode with the lesbian polar bears, first aired in Britain, should not be broadcast in Italy to avoid ‘gender indoctrination’.
During the campaign, Meloni has repeatedly denied suggestions she might roll back legislation on abortion or gay rights, while reaffirming her opposition to adoptions and surrogacy for LGBT couples.
Meloni said she wanted to give a choice to women unsure about terminating pregnancies.
‘We won’t touch the abortion law. We just want (women) to know there are other options,’ she said.
Meloni is likely to keep her word on not criminalising abortion, said Bonino, who did time in jail in the 1970s for her fight to legalise it.
But she fears Meloni will instead ‘push for the law to be ignored’, exacerbating an existing problem – difficulties in getting hold of abortion pills or finding gynaecologists willing to perform terminations.
Following her election today, French prime minister Elizabeth Borne said she will be ‘attentive’ to the respect of the right to abortion and other human rights in Italy.
‘Obviously we will be attentive, with the president of the European Commission, that these values of human rights, the respect of one another, notably the respect of abortion rights, are respected by all,’ Borne told BFM television.
Meloni has openly discussed how she wants to reverse Italy’s declining population, and limiting abortion would help stop that trend.
She also wants to offer incentives for having children including free nurseries, employment protection for young mothers and more welfare payments.
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