Giorgia Meloni, who? What we know, do not know, about far-right leader in Italy

Giorgia Meloni, the 45-year-old head of the far-right Brothers of Italy party, is a seasoned and communicative leader who is poised to become Italy’s first female prime minister, leading the most right-wing government since World War II.


Despite being known for her tough-talking and staunch coherence in her political battles, Meloni’s recent evolution as the front-runner after Sept. 25 elections leaves questions about her future as a leader.


Meloni, who started her political career when she was only 15 in Rome’s working-class Garbatella neighborhood, helped found the Brothers of Italy in 2012, four years after becoming the country’s youngest minister under Silvio Berlusconi.


Her party has been denting electoral support of its traditional allies – Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Matteo Salvini’s League – surging from 4% in 2018 to around 25% in the last available surveys ahead of Sunday’s election.


In her years at the helm of Brothers of Italy, Meloni has managed to transform an originally neo-fascist party, born from the ashes of the late Mussolini era, into a populist and nationalist political force able to attract voters from the rightist and moderate electorate.


“I am Giorgia, I am a woman, I am a mother, I am a Christian,” is one of Meloni’s most popular rallying quotes, which became viral on social media and has even been turned into a rap song.


“While her government will not have fascist overtones, it is questionable whether Meloni will stick to the compromising line that she has carefully steered during the election campaign,” said Wolfango Piccoli, head of London-based research firm, Teneo.


Meloni, who originally was very critical of the EU’s fiscal policies, is not expected to pick a fight with Brussels in the short term, said Piccoli, but it remains to be seen if her past Eurosceptic stance could make a comeback.


Analysts stressed that during the electoral campaign, Meloni has been talking to two different audiences. On one side, international allies, which she tried to reassure her support for defending Ukraine and her sound pro-NATO approach. On the other side, the internal public and her traditional electorate, for which she insisted on anti-migrant and anti-LGBQ policies.


Identity politics


Many observers believe Meloni will face the classic decline in popularity that former opposition leaders always suffered once in government.


Moreover, she would inherit a very challenging agenda, including possible energy shortages, record inflation and a looming recession. On top of that, she will have to manage her litigious allies – Berlusconi and Salvini, who feel weakened by Meloni’s popularity.


“Meloni as a premier is still a mystery,” Massimiliano Panarari, a political analyst at Rome’s Mercatorum University, told Anadolu Agency. “Whether she will end up being the leader of a governing party or a revolutionary political force is very difficult to predict.”


Meloni’s political ideology strongly embraces identity politics and focuses on defending national borders, national interests and the so-called “traditional family.”


She has always been staunchly anti-drugs and anti-abortion, although she insists she would not ban abortion.


Her international approach is less defined and follows 19 months of stable and internationally credible leadership under former European Central Bank head Mario Draghi.


“It will be determinant to see how much international allies will be worried by the new Italian government and how markets will react,” said Franco Pavoncello, a professor of political science and head of Rome-based John Cabot University.


Meloni will have to take solid stances on EU policies to counter the Russian war in Ukraine, current and future European economic policies and the resilience of Italian democracy.


“Who’s the real Giorgia Meloni? She’s all we have seen,” said Emiliana De Blasio, a professor of sociology of communications at Luiss University in Rome.


“She had no difficulties in changing her tones towards Europe and this probably won’t be a problem if she becomes premier, while the difficulty to take roots in local territories may hit her more,” De Blasio added.


The rightist bloc led by Meloni’s party is likely to secure a comfortable majority in the Lower House and the Senate in Sunday’s vote.


Polling data suggests that the Brothers of Italy and its allies should secure between 44% and 47% of the vote, providing a solid lead over the center-left alliance.


But a landslide victory that would provide the rightist bloc with a two-third majority in parliament, which is needed to change the Constitution without consulting voters via referendum, looks very unlikely, said analysts.


As the share of undecided voters remains significant at around 25%, there is still a possibility that the right-wing alliance may secure a slimmer majority than earlier suggested.


Meloni’s staunchest supporters, who gathered in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo on the closing day of the election campaign Thursday, believe that “Giorgia” will be strong enough to govern while resisting compromises.


“Coherence is her better quality,” said Filippo Mosticone, a 21-year-old supporter of the Brothers of Italy and Meloni’s fan. “I believe our time has finally come.”


Source: Anadolu Agency