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The right-wing populist Meloni could become Italy’s next prime minister

The right-wing populist Meloni could become Italy’s next prime minister
The right-wing populist Meloni could become Italy’s next prime minister

The far-right party Italy’s Brothers, led by 45-year-old Giorgia Meloni, is set to make a landslide in the Italian parliamentary elections on 25 September.

Five years ago, the party was considered a marginal phenomenon with only 4.4 percent support. Now opinion polls suggest that Italy’s Brothers could get as much as 24 percent of the vote in the election and thus become the country’s largest party, ahead of the center-left Democratic Party.

First woman

If she succeeds in climbing all the way to the top, Meloni will be historic in several ways. Not only will she become Italy’s first ever female prime minister, but she will also become the first far-right Italian head of state since dictator Benito Mussolini ruled the country from 1922 to 1943.

Italy has a complicated electoral system, and unlike in Norway, it is not just the voters’ votes that decide who runs away with the post of prime minister. The parties are completely dependent on forming coalitions with others, and in this year’s election campaign the right-wing populists have fared better than their more moderate opponents.

Meloni has allied himself with the far-right party La Liga and party leader Matteo Salvini, who, like Meloni, wants to crack down on illegal immigration. She has also teamed up with the party of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Forza Italia.

Grew up in a working class area

Meloni grew up in a working-class area in the Italian capital Rome – something she herself describes as shaping her biography “I am Giorgia” from 2021.

At 15, she joined the youth movement of the neo-fascist party The Italian Social Movement (MSI). At the age of 31, Meloni was elected Minister of Youth in Berlusconi’s fourth and last government before in 2012 she co-founded Italy’s Brothers, the party she currently leads.

Both Meloni and La Liga leader Matteo Salvini describe themselves as guardians of what they call Europe’s Christian identity. But where Salvini and Berlusconi are open admirers of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Meloni’s party has supported sending arms to Ukraine.

Meloni is also a defender of Nato, but skeptical of the EU’s influence on Italy.

Post rape video

Besides Christianity, Meloni’s political message is interspersed with both nationalism and references to the conventional mother role.

She has made a number of controversial statements in the election campaign, including in a speech in support of the Spanish far-right party Vox.

– They are going to say that we are dangerous, extremists, racists, fascists, deniers and homophobes, thundered Meloni, with reference to holocaust deniers.

She ended with the slogans “Yes to natural families! No to the LGBT lobby! Yes to sexual identity! No to gender ideology!”. In retrospect, Meloni has apologized for the tone she used, but not the message.

Meloni also drew criticism after she posted a video of an alleged rape on Twitter, while promising to “restore security” in the country. Several are concerned that Meloni will tighten the abortion law if she wins the election, which she herself has rejected. However, she has said she will offer women “alternatives” to abortion.

Troubled inheritance

Meloni has also dismissed concerns related to the party’s political legacy. The Brothers of Italy have nevertheless continued to use the flame symbol from their neo-fascist predecessor, MSI. In 2019, Mussolini’s grandson, Caio Giulio Cesare Mussolini, was nominated as one of the party’s candidates for the European Parliament.

For the majority of Italian voters, the issue of anti-fascism and neo-fascism is not decisive for who they choose to vote for, according to Lorenzo Pregliasco, head of the polling institute YouTrend.

– They don’t see it as part of the present, but as part of the past, he says.

In voter surveys, Meloni is considered to have a “consistent and coherent approach to politics”, explains Pregliasco.

– She does not compromise, he says.

Meloni herself has stated that the right-wing in Italy has long since abandoned fascism and assured that she will “fight fiercely against any anti-democratic trend”.

The article is in Norwegian

Tags: rightwing populist Meloni Italys prime minister

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