Italy’s far-right leader formally asks for mandate to govern

ROME: Italian politician Giorgia Meloni, whose party has neo-fascist roots, said on Friday that she and her allies have asked the country’s president to give her the mandate to form Italy’s first far-right government since the end of the world. War II.

Meloni and her campaign allies met President Sergio Mattarella for about 10 minutes at the Quirinal presidential palace. She came forward to tell reporters that the coalition had unanimously indicated to Mattarella that she deserved the mandate to rule.

The palace later announced that Mattarella had single-handedly recalled Meloni to meet with the president late Friday afternoon.

At that meeting, the president can decide that Meloni has put together a viable government and invite her and her ministers to take the oath the next day. He could also mandate her to attempt to form a government and some time to report to him on its progress.

If Meloni, 45, succeeds, she would be the first woman to become prime minister of Italy.

Winning the premiership would mean a remarkably rapid rise for the Brothers of Italy party that Meloni co-founded in December 2012, and which in its early years was considered a fringe movement on the right.

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“We have identified myself as the person who should be given the mandate to form the new government,” said Meloni, flanked by her two main, sometimes troublesome, right-wing allies – Matteo Salvini and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. “We are ready and want to move forward as quickly as possible.”

She cited pressing issues “both at a national and international level”, clear references to rising energy prices plaguing households and businesses, and the war in Ukraine, which has left European Union members divided over the strategy amid gas supply concerns. during the approaching winter.

Berlusconi and Salvini were silent during Meloni’s brief remarks to reporters. But at one point, Berlusconi raised his eyebrows and looked behind her head at Salvini as Meloni spoke.

Both men have long been admirers of Russian leader Vladimir Putin; Meloni unshakably supports Ukraine in its defense against the Russian invasion. Those differences can make coalition government challenging.

Berlusconi, three-time prime minister, is annoyed by the election victory of Meloni’s party. The Brothers of Italy won 26 percent, while Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Salvini’s anti-migrant league each won just over 8 percent in a September 25 election with record low turnout.

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In 2018, in the previous parliamentary elections, Meloni’s party gained just over 4 percent.

Although her armed forces are the largest in Parliament, Meloni needs her two allies to gain a solid majority in the legislature.

Berlusconi, who considers herself a rare leader on the global stage, recently derided her as “arrogant” in written comments, apparently after Meloni refused to make a lawmaker, who is one of the media mogul’s closest advisers, minister.

Earlier this week, in a meeting with lawmakers, he expressed sympathy for Putin’s motivation to invade Ukraine. In that conversation, which was taped and leaked to the Italian news agency LaPresse, he also bragged that Putin had sent him bottles of vodka for his 86th birthday last month and gave the Russian bottles of wine as the two exchanged lovely notes.

In response to Berlusconi’s comments, which were also derogatory of Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky, Meloni urged that anyone who joins her government should align firmly with the West in opposing Putin’s war. If that meant her government couldn’t be formed, Meloni said, she’d take that risk.

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Salvini has also at times questioned the wisdom of harsh Western sanctions against Russia. A fellow lawmaker in the Salvini’s League party who was recently elected Speaker of the House of Representatives has publicly expressed doubts about continuing the measures.

Outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s national pandemic unity coalition collapsed in July after Salvini, Berlusconi and the populist leader of the five-star movement Giuseppe Conte refused to support his government in a confidence vote. This prompted Mattarella to dissolve parliament and clear the way for the elections, some six months earlier.

While the latest efforts to form the new government were underway, Draghi was in Brussels, attending the last day of a European Council summit, where he struggled with ways to cope with higher energy prices.

On Thursday, Mattarella received opposition leaders expressing concerns that Meloni, who campaigned with a “God, homeland, family” agenda, would try to erode abortion rights and roll back rights such as same-sex civil unions.

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