Giorgia Meloni is to be sworn in as Italian Prime Minister. Some fear the right turn she promised to take


Rome
CNN

Giorgia Melonthe far-right leader who is to be sworn in as Italy’s first female prime minister, won the election on a campaign built around a promise to block migrant ships and support traditional “family values” and anti-LGBTQ themes.

She leads an alliance of far-right and center-right parties, led by her own Brothers of Italy, and is set to form the most right-wing government Italy has seen in decades.

Meloni’s victory in last month’s parliamentary elections suggests that the lure of nationalism remains intact in Italy – but his vow to take the country in a right turn still leaves many unsure of what will happen next.

The new government is made up of a coalition with two other right-wing leaders. One is Matteo Salvini, a former interior minister who became a darling of the hard-right in 2018 when he transformed his party, the League, once a breakaway party in the North, into a nationalist force.

The other is Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s centre-right former prime minister who is widely remembered for his “bunga bunga” sex scandals with young women. Both men have previously publicly expressed their admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, prompting questions about the coalition’s approach to Russia.

And just this week – a few days before the start of consultations on the formation of the government – secretly recorded audio circulated in which Berlusconi seems to blame Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on Kyiv and boasts of having restored relations with the Russian leader.

“I reconnected with President Putin a bit, not badly, in the sense that for my birthday he gave me 20 bottles of vodka and a very sweet letter, and I responded by giving him bottles of Lambrusco “Berlusconi said in the clip. , published Tuesday by the Italian news agency LaPresse. The 86-year-old billionaire and media mogul was talking to members of the Forza Italia party at the time.

A party spokesman denied that Berlusconi was in contact with Putin, saying he told lawmakers “an old story referring to an episode many years ago”. Berlusconi defended his remarks in an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Thursday, saying they were taken out of context.

Amid backlash over the comments, Meloni, who has been a strong supporter of Ukraine as it battles the invasion of Moscow, sought to clarify where she and the coalition would stand once in power.

“I have been and always will be clear, I intend to lead a government with a clear and unequivocal foreign policy. Italy is fully part of Europe and of the Atlantic Alliance. Anyone who disagrees with this cornerstone will not be able to be part of the government, at the cost of not being a government. With us in power, Italy will never be the weak link in the West,” she said.

Nonetheless, liberals in Italy and across the EU fear what the promised rightward shift could mean for the country and its future – while conservative voters believe only a strong-armed politician like Meloni can take the country out of the crisis in a context of growing energy. costs and high youth unemployment.

“Meloni does not voice the voting choices of hard-right voters, because we have data that shows she was voted in mostly by the center-right,” political science professor Lorenzo De Sio told CNN. Luiss Guido Carli University.

“I would say that Meloni’s motto is to be a kind of new conservative, that is, the conservatism of the 21st century. She might have a distant connection to the post-fascist legacy, but that’s clearly not the core of her political platform now.

Meloni grew up in the working-class Roman neighborhood of Garbatella, a historically left-leaning part of southern Rome that was built during the fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini. She made her political debut in the Youth Front movement, a political organization with fascist roots.

She then created her own political party, Brothers of Italy, which in just four years rose from 4% of the vote to 26% in elections last month. Although this does not represent the majority of Italians, thanks to its partnership with Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Salvini’s League, the coalition has enough seats in parliament to govern the country.

Back in the Garbatella district, among the fruit and vegetable stalls where Meloni went with her mother, some residents remember her as a child, long before she embraced politics. Opinions on what she will be as a leader vary widely.

“I know her very well. I had known her since she was little,” said Aldo, a fruit and vegetable vendor from Garbatella who has run his market stall for decades. “His mother used to come here to shop. She always had a book in her hand to study. If she moves forward like she did when she was little, she will be strong.

He added: “You have to have a strong fist. Period. You understand? This is how we move forward. Otherwise Italy, kapoof, it’s gone!

Gloria, a lifelong resident of Garbatella, said she was worried about her children's future freedoms after Giorgia Meloni's victory.

Just across the street from the market, Gloria, who was born and raised in Garbatella and helps her son at his Roman food stall, has very different views.

“What she’s said so far terrifies me,” she told CNN.

“There are a lot of people who connect with those kinds of conservative ideals because they’re racist, because they’re not progressive. I have three children and I wonder if my daughter will have the freedom to have an abortion if she wishes, to be a lesbian?

Meloni has lately sought to distance his party from its neo-fascist roots. His policy proposals have also evolved over time, including backtracking on some of his most anti-EU ideas.

In 2014 she said: “Italy must leave the euro!” and called on Congress to revoke sanctions against Russia. Now, according to her draft government plan and her latest comments, she wants Italy to be a “protagonist within Europe”.

Emiliano, a local who shopped at Garbatella market, said he didn’t bother to vote in the last election. “Neither the left nor the right deserves a vote. Before, politicians ate but we ate too. Now only they eat,” he said.

With the skyrocketing cost of energy, the risk for Italian businesses and households is high. According to Coldiretti, the largest agricultural aid association in Italy.

According to a recent report by Coldiretti, rising production costs have forced many small agricultural businesses to close for the season because they cannot cope.

Sabina Petrucci runs the family olive oil business, Olio Petrucci, and is also a member of Coldiretti’s European Young Farmworker Council. She is hopeful and thinks that the only way to solve the current problems is through strong political leadership.

“We need a very concrete government that helps us with energy costs and also to get the financial aid and the financial assistance that we may need in the future,” Petrucci said. “A lot of producers in the region are stopping their production, they are really afraid of the increase in costs.”

She describes rising energy costs as “the main threat to us”, adding: “We opened our factory, but production costs increased throughout the summer.”

Sabina Petrucci, director of family-owned olive oil company Petrucci Oil, said many in her industry are alarmed by rising energy and production costs.

Italy has the third-oldest population in the world, but Meloni and his party have worked to connect with Italy’s youth, the next generation of voters. She herself entered politics at the age of 15, after joining the Youth Front, the youth wing of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), a party created by Giorgio Almirante, who was a minister in the government of the fascist dictator. Benito Mussolini.

Francesco Todde is a leader of the National Youth Movement, a political movement set up by Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party in 2014 to connect with a younger generation of politically interested Italians who have been frustrated with the political status quo.

Francesco Todde, Elisa Segnini Bocchia and Simone D'Alpa are members of the youth movement of the Brothers of Italy.

“Giorgia Meloni comes from a background of political youth, so she has always paid a lot of attention to youth and made reforms for youth. At the beginning of her political career, she was Minister of Youth”, a- he told CNN.

Elisa Segnini Bocchia, another committed member of the National Youth Movement, responds to the reasons why some quickly associate this movement with fascism: “Our past is not our future. So we don’t look at the past. We seek the new future.

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