Giorgia Meloni is set to become Italy’s first-ever female prime minister after her Brothers of Italy won a startling victory last week. Yet, actually governing Italy may prove a difficult task with most Italian governments lasting less than two years in office.
She captured the presidency with a take no prisoners style and skillful use of populist politics. For example, she once struck at French President Emmanuel Macron with a critique of France’s role in Africa that reflects her careful political instincts in a video shared widely on social media.
“Do not come to teach us lessons, Macron; the Africans are abandoning their continent because of you,” Meloni said at an Italian conservative conference in 2018, “The solution is not to transfer Africans to Europe but to liberate Africa from some Europeans.”
Some consider the Brothers of Italy to be “far right” due to their ties to political groups formed in Italy after World War II, Meloni herself shrugs off the label as a smear. Though as a teenage activist, she once publicly praised Mussolini. Yet, her willingness to embrace anti-imperialist rhetoric suggests an ideological flexibility and a rejection of Italian fascism of which imperialism in Africa was a key tenet.
Indeed for his part, Benito Mussolini would be furious with the election of Giorgia Meloni as Prime Minister. The misogynistic Italian dictator once wrote that “Women never created anything” in an American magazine.
“Most people don’t give a damn about fascism or communism. Partially that is about lost historical memory,” said Francesco Grillo, the managing director of Vision and Value, a consulting firm and a former advisor to multiple Italian government entities,” Yet, I would say everyone Italians, and increasingly everybody in the EU is desperate to see results.”
Grillo noted that the Democratic Party, which finished second in the recent election, also has a direct lineage to the Italian Communist Party though is fully committed to the democratic process.
“She played into a lot of dissatisfaction among voters. We pay four times in pensions what we spend on education for those entering the labor market…while Spain and France have seen modest population increases in recent years – Italy’s population is declining,” said Grillo.
Meloni started the Fratelli d’Italia(Brothers of Italy) in 2012, along with two other politicians who viewed the existing Italian right as a spent force. This includes Matteo Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, who will likely be part of her governing coalition. The former has been a deputy prime minister of Italy, and the latter a long-time prime minister.
“Her party was sort of the last man standing, having been in opposition for long and thus free from many negative connotations in the minds of voters,” said Francesco Senese, a senior official with the Democratic Party in Naples, during an interview with Zenger News in that Italian city.
On the campaign trail and in her various stints in office, Meloni has displayed anti-immigrant and eurocritical views. Yet, some of Meloni’s views have changed over time. A former admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who praised his 2018 election victory, has now become a critic of Russia’s war in Ukraine and pledged continued support for Ukraine. She has also toned down some of her critiques of the financial sector.
“She isn’t seen as Mussolini reincarnated,” said Grillo, “she is perceived to be coherent, but she faces a perfect storm of policy issues. One is the energy crisis brought about by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Due to the conflict, Italy is more vulnerable than Germany to energy market fluctuations. Second is the unusual problem of a government having too much money. The government has some 200 billion of European Union funds to spend in three years. The government usually spends 15 billion a year. So there will likely be a bureaucratic collision between those funds and the efficiency of public procurement.”
(Additional reporting provided by Virginia Van Zandt)
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