Giorgia Meloni, a nationalist accused by political rivals and experts of spreading white supremacist ideas, was on Monday set to become Italy’s first far-right leader since World War II.
The near-final results from Sunday’s election showed her Fratelli d’Italia Party (Brothers of Italy) will lead a right-wing coalition, joined by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s and fellow rightwing firebrand Matteo Salvini.
The government is predicted to have a majority in both the upper and lower houses of Italy’s Parliament, giving Meloni, 45, power to enact her nationalist, Eurosceptic platform, and swelling the ranks of far-right figures at the top European politics.
The results confirm her party’s rise from a radical fringe group to the driving force in right-wing Italian politics. The near-final results confirmed it won more than 26% of the total vote — in the last national election in 2018 it got just 4%.
Meloni who would be Italy’s first female leader, and the Brothers of Italy advocate naval blockades to stop unauthorized migration from Africa.
She has also bemoaned the chronically low birthrate in Italy and spoken of a left-wing government plot to “finance the invasion to replace Italians with immigrants,” a main tenet of the “great replacement,” a conspiracy theory that accuses shadowy global elites of the wholesale importing of nonwhite migrants to majority white countries.
“We must remember that we are not at the end point, we are at the starting point. It is from tomorrow that we must prove our worth,” Meloni, 45, said in a rally early Monday morning, according to a translation from Reuters.
The Brothers of Italy can trace its roots back to a fascist party founded by supporters of dictator Benito Mussolini, although Meloni has rejected any suggestion that lingering fascist tendencies remain comparing Brothers instead to the UK’s traditionally center-right Conservative Party.
Although he is set for a government role, it was a bad night for Salvini’s League Party, which won about 9% of the vote, down from more than 17% in 2018. Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, formerly a governing party, won 8% of the vote.
The center-left Democratic Party received 19% of the vote and conceded defeat.
“Forza Italia and Lega (League) are populist right-wing parties, whereas Brothers of Italy is clearly a far-right party that has not given up on its post-fascist roots,” said Rosa Balfour, director of Carnegie Europe, to think tank in Brussels, speaking to BBC News on Monday.
“Ultra-conservative values, anti-immigration and nationalism — these are the three keywords that best describe what she stands for,” she said.
Other far-right figures in Europe have noted Meloni’s success. Among the first to congratulate Meloni was France’s Marine Le Pen, who staged a strong challenge in April’s presidential elections.
“The Italian people have decided to take their destiny in hand by electing a patriotic and sovereignist government,” she said.
Balázs Orbán, the political director to Hungary’s authoritarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (they are unrelated), tweeted his congratulations and added pictures of Meloni, Salvini and Berlusconi all shaking hands with the Hungarian prime minister.
Meloni’s politics have been compared to that of Orbán, who according to political opponents and European Union leaders has systematically dismantled his country’s democratic structures.
The new election has prompted questions about what comes next for the stability of the western coalition to support Ukraine’s resistance against Russia’s invasion.
While Meloni has pledged to support Ukraine, Berlusconi last week told an Italian TV news network: “Putin was pushed by the Russian people, by his party, by his ministers to come up with this special operation,” using the Russian terminology for Putin’s military campaign.
Salvini is a longstanding admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has argued for scrapping Western sanctions on Russia.
European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen outraged Meloni’s supporters last week by hinting the EU could somehow intervene if Italy were to go in a “difficult direction” and deviate from democratic norms.
Speaking at Princeton University, she said: “We’ll see. If things go in a difficult direction — and I’ve spoken about Hungary and Poland — we have the tools.”
The EU is in longstanding legal battles with Hungary and Poland over both countries’ antidemocratic reforms.
Meloni is likely to officially become prime minister in October, taking over from Mario Draghi, the central banker whose government collapsed in July leading to Sunday’s snap election.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism