Far-right Giorgia Meloni appointed Italy’s first female prime minister

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President Mattarella gave Brothers of Italy leader mandate to govern with coalition members Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini

Giorgia Meloni has formed Italy’s new ruling coalition, giving the country its first far right-led government since the end of the second world war.

A presidential palace official announced that Meloni, set to become the first woman to serve as the country’s prime minister, and her cabinet would be sworn in on Saturday. Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, a party with neo-fascist roots, was the top vote-winner in Italy’s national election last month.

A few hours before the new government’s formation 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 govern.

Obtaining the premiership capped a remarkably quick rise for Brothers of Italy. Meloni co-founded the party in December 2012, and it was considered a fringe movement on the right during its first years.Meloni made no public comments before leaving the Quirinal presidential palace. Earlier in the day, she met with Mattarella, along with her two main, sometimes troublesome, rightwing allies – Matteo Salvini and the former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Mattarella told reporters the government was formed in “brief time” following the 25 September election. After the last election, in 2018, it took three months for a new ruling coalition to come together.

Quickly giving the country a new government “was possible due to the clarity of the vote outcome and to the need to proceed swiftly also because of the domestic and international conditions that require a government in its fullness to carry out its tasks”, Mattarella said.

Italy and much of the rest of Europe are struggling with soaring energy costs and the drama of Russia’s war in Ukraine, which could crimp gas supplies this winter and continue increasing household and business power bills.

Berlusconi and Salvini are longtime admirers of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, while Meloni staunchly backs Ukraine in its defence against the Russian invasion. Those differences could produce challenges for their governing coalition.

Berlusconi, a three-time prime minister, had chafed at the election victory of Meloni’s party. Brothers of Italy took 26% of the vote, while Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the anti-migrant League of Salvini snagged just more than 8% each in an election with a record low turnout. In 2018, when Italy held its previous parliamentary election, Meloni’s party took just over 4%.

Still, while her party’s members are the largest force in the Italian parliament, Meloni needs the support of her two allies to command a majority.

Berlusconi, who fancies himself a rare leader on the world stage, recently called her “arrogant” in written comments, apparently after Meloni refused to make one of the media mogul’s closest advisers a government minister.
This week, during a meeting with Forza Italia’s lawmakers, the former prime minister expressed sympathy for Putin’s motivation in invading Ukraine.

A recording of the conversation leaked to Italian news agency LaPresse also captured Berlusconi bragging that Putin had sent him bottles of vodka for his 86th birthday last month and that he had given the Russian leader bottles of wine, while the two exchanged “sweetly worded” notes.

In response to Berlusconi’s comments, which included derogatory remarks about the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Meloni said that anyone joining her government must be solidly in sync with the west in opposing Putin’s war. If that meant her government could not be formed, Meloni said, she would take that risk.

As a bulwark against possible wavering on Ukraine by her coalition allies, Meloni named as defence minister one of her closest advisers, Brothers of Italy co-founder Guido Crosetto.

She chose Antonio Tajani as foreign minister, one of Berlusconi’s top aides in Forza Italia and a former president of the European Union’s parliament. His pro-EU background could reassure European partners worried about a Meloni government wavering in its international alliances.

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

— The Guardian