Giorgia Meloni: The new far-right Italian PM trying to shake off fascism links
Giorgia Meloni is set to become Italy’s first woman prime minister - and also the leader of arguably its most right-wing government since fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
Based on provisional results from Sunday’s general election, she is set to win 26 percent of the vote, putting her ahead of centre-left rival Enrico Letta.
"Italians have sent a clear message in favour of a right-wing government led by Brothers of Italy," she told reporters in Rome, referring to her nationalist party.
Meloni’s right-wing alliance includes former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and former deputy PM Matteo Salvini’s far-right Lega. The coalition will take control of both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.
"If we are called upon to govern this nation, we will do so for all Italians, with the aim of uniting the people, of exalting what unites them rather than what divides them," she said.
"We will not betray your trust."
But despite the unifying rhetoric, Meloni, and her party, have a long history of links to fascism and xenophobic rhetoric.
Born in 1977, Meloni grew up in Rome’s working-class Garbatella neighbourhood, famous for its leftism and counter-culture.
At the age of just 15, she became a youth activist for the Italian Social Movement (MSI), a group set up in 1946 by ex-fascists including Giorgio Almirante, a minister in Mussolini’s government convicted of collaborating with Nazi troops.
As an MSI youth activist, speaking to a French TV crew, Meloni said of Mussolini: “Everything he did, he did for Italy - and there have been no politicians like him for 50 years.”
She later led the student branch of the far-right National Alliance, before being elected as a member of parliament in 2006.
Just two years later she became the country’s youngest ever minister, taking over the youth portfolio in Berlusconi’s government.
In 2012 she founded the Brothers of Italy, often described as a successor to the now defunct MSI, which she had led since 2014.
The party retained MSI’s tricoloured flame in its logo, and its headquarters on Via della Scrofa in central Rome is the same office where the neofascist party was set up in 1946.
Meloni has frequently denied that her party is fascist, claiming that the Italian right had “handed fascism over to history for decades now”.
Instead, she posits that Brothers of Italy is more akin to “the British Tories, the US Republicans and Israeli Likud”.
Enrico Michetti, the party’s mayoral candidate in Rome, may not have got the memo: last year he said the stiff-armed fascist-linked Roman salute should be revived because it was more hygienic in the Covid-19 era.
Meloni has since sent out internal memos to party groups instructing them to refrain from the salute or making references to fascism.
But just days ago, one of its election candidates was suspended after it emerged that he had praised Hitler and described Meloni as “a modern fascist”.
Meloni shot to fame in 2019, during a campaign rally in which she declared “I am Giorgia, I am a woman, I am a mother, I am Italian, I am a Christian”. The tirade went viral after it was remixed into a dance music track.
Her party headed into this month's election with the campaign slogan “Italy and Italian people first!” on a populist, right-wing manifesto.
In August, Meloni said she would introduce a naval blockade to patrol the Mediterranean, to stop “illegal immigrants” from North Africa.
'Yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology. Yes to the culture of life, no to the abyss of death'
- Giorgia Meloni
Later last month she caused uproar after tweeting a video of a rape allegedly perpetrated by an asylum seeker.
In a speech in Marbella, Spain, with the Spanish far-right Vox party, she said: “No to the violence of Islam, yes to safer borders. No to mass immigration, yes to work for our people.”
The 45-year-old, who is anti-abortion and gay marriage, added: "Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby.
"Yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology. Yes to the culture of life, no to the abyss of death."
Meloni insists she won’t abolish Italy’s abortion law, though some have expressed fears she may restrict its application.
Party officials have in the past linked Italy’s low birth rate with the “Great Replacement” theory, a false conspiracy suggesting that global elites want to substitute Europeans with immigrants.