How Giorgia Meloni and her far-right party became a driving force in Italian politics

The National Alliance, formerly the Italian Social Movement, was uncompromisingly neo-fascist and was founded by followers of Benito Mussolini. Meloni herself openly admired the dictator as a youth but later distanced herself from his brand of fascism – although she retained the tricolor flame, symbolizing the eternal fire on his grave, in the logo of the Brothers of Italy, the party to which she later belonged. Found in 2012.

Now it looks like the 45-year-old ultra-conservative unmarried mother will become Italy’s first woman prime minister.

Her far-right Brothers of Italy party, which leads ahead of the September 25 general election, garnered just 4.5 percent of the vote in the last election in 2018.

Her popularity has skyrocketed since then, in no small part because she has kept herself in the spotlight with an active social media presence and kept her party abreast without deviating from a conservative agenda questioning LGBT rights, abortion rights and immigration sets guidelines.

Her party was also the only mainstream party not to join the unity government formed by Mario Draghi after Giuseppe Conte’s government was overthrown in 2021, instead calling for snap elections rather than another technocratic solution. When Draghi’s government collapsed again in July, snap elections were called on Sunday.
Former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon (left) arrives with Giorgia Meloni to attend a convention of the Italian Brothers party in Rome September 22, 2018.
A darling of the global conservative movement, Meloni was a popular protégé of Republican strategist Steve Bannon, who ran her party conferences in Italy before the Covid-19 pandemic and his own legal troubles. Bannon recently backed her, saying in a statement to CNN, “Meloni, like Thatcher, she’s going to fight and win.”
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Meloni has spoken at several US C-Pac conventions, telling the group in 2022 that conservatives are under attack.

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“We (Conservatives) are proud of our identities, of what we stand for. We live in a time when everything it stands for is under attack: our individual liberties are under attack, our rights are under attack, the sovereignty of our nations is under attack, the prosperity and well-being of our families is under attack, the education of our Children being attacked Faced with this, people understand that at this time the only way to be rebellious is to preserve who we are, the only way to be rebellious is to be conservative,” she said.

She grew up with a single mother in Rome’s gritty left-wing Garbatella district, far from the tourist attractions of the capital’s center. A group of elderly men seated on a park bench in the neighborhood’s central square shook their heads at the mention of their names. “She doesn’t represent me,” coffee bar owner Marizio Tagliani told CNN. “She doesn’t represent this neighborhood.”

Silvio Berlusconi of Forza Italia and Giorgia Meloni of the Brothers of Italy pay tribute to supporters at the end of a joint anti-government rally with Italy's far-right Lega party October 19, 2019 in Rome.

Meloni represents a growing number of conservative Italians aligned with their ideals about the traditional family, consistent with their powerful Catholic Church.

She is openly opposed to LGBT and threatens that same-sex partnerships, which were legalized in Italy in 2016, could be under scrutiny.

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She has also called abortion a “tragedy,” and regions in Italy where her party is in office have already experienced abortion restrictions and a lack of services, including failure to comply with a national policy that allows clinics to offer the abortion pill and only abortions are allowed for seven weeks, including the mandatory one-week waiting period for a woman to “reflect” on her decision, while national guidelines dictate nine weeks.

Partly responsible for her popularity are her partners in Italy’s centre-right alliance, Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi appointed her his sports minister during his 2008 government, making her the youngest minister to hold that position.

She trains regularly with Salvini, whose popularity is steadily declining. She was his junior partner in the centre-right alliance in the 2018 election. This time she’s in charge and has hinted that if elected, she might not give Salvini a ministerial portfolio, which would deprive him of the power to potentially overthrow her government.

Silvio Berlusconi, Giorgia Meloni and Matteo Salvini greet supporters at the end of a rally against the Italian government in San Giovanni Square on October 19, 2019 in Rome, Italy.

She differs from both Salvini and Berlusconi on a number of issues, including Ukraine, and has no connection to Russian President Vladimir Putin, unlike her electoral partners, who have said they support the sanctions against Russia because of their impact on want to review the Italian economy. Meloni has instead been steadfast in defending Ukraine.

The prospect of a female leader in a traditionally male-dominated country has some wondering if she is judged by different rules than her male counterparts.

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“We never had a female prime minister. I think we’re definitely ready for that. Long overdue, I would also add,” Dario Fabbri, a political analyst and editor of the political magazine Domino, told CNN. “But how the whole society will receive them, I don’t know. This is unknown to her and to us.”

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Emiliana De Blasio, a consultant for diversity and inclusion at LUISS University in Rome, told CNN that Meloni’s politics are more important than her gender, but that she didn’t first prove herself as a feminist.

“We have to think about the fact that Giorgia Meloni doesn’t raise any questions about women’s rights and empowerment in general,” she said.

Fabbri concedes that Meloni may find it easier to find acceptance on the global stage than in Italy, where just 49% of women work outside the home, according to the World Economic Forum’s gender survey.

“It will depend on how she will behave. As she will introduce herself to world leaders. I think she walked a very fine line in terms of her image, her previous positions on many issues, and so far she hasn’t. I haven’t made many slips this campaign,” he told CNN.

“But being at the head of the government is of course something completely different. So I think the way she is received has not much to do with prejudice against Italy, but with how she will present herself to world leaders. ”

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