Far-right Meloni accepts becoming Italy's first woman PM

New coalition will be formally sworn in this weekend

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Giorgia Meloni has accepted a mandate to form Italy's next government, a presidential official said on Friday, paving the way for her to become the country's first woman prime minister.

The new government will be formally sworn in on Saturday morning and will face confidence votes in both houses of parliament next week.

Ms Meloni, head of the nationalist Brothers of Italy, led an alliance of conservative parties to victory during the September 25 election. Her party will form the country's most right-wing government since the Second World War.

“Giorgia Meloni has accepted the mandate and has presented her list of ministers,” presidential official Ugo Zampetti told reporters after Ms Meloni consulted with President Sergio Mattarella, who, as head of state, formally asked her to form a government.

The Brothers of Italy, which holds Eurosceptic and anti-immigration views, won 26 per cent of the vote in the September polls, compared to 8 and 9 per cent, respectively, for allies Forza Italia and the far-right League.

Ms Meloni's appointment is a historic change for the eurozone's third-largest economy and for Brothers of Italy, which has never been in government.

The consultations to cobble together a government have been overshadowed by disagreements over Ms Meloni's ardent support for Ukraine since the Russian invasion, with her two would-be coalition partners both considered to be close to Moscow.

A recording was leaked during the week in which Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi — who heads Forza Italia — talks about his warm ties with Moscow and appeared to blame the war in Ukraine on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Italian designated prime minister Giorgia Meloni will form Italy's most right-wing government for over two decades. EPA.

Her other coalition partner, Matteo Salvini leader of the League party, is a long-time fan of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has criticised western sanctions on Moscow.

Despite her Eurosceptic stance, Ms Meloni has been firm about her support for Ukraine, in line with the rest of the European Union and the US.

“I intend to lead a government with a clear and unequivocal foreign policy line,” she has said. “Italy is fully, and with its head held high, part of Europe and the Atlantic alliance.

“Anyone who does not agree with this cornerstone will not be able to be part of the government, even at the cost of not forming a government.”

Giorgia Meloni to become Italy's first female prime minister — in pictures

Mr Berlusconi, 86, has said that his personal and political positions “do not deviate from that of the Italian government [and] the European Union” on Ukraine.

But the tension adds to concerns that Ms Meloni's coalition, held together by the need for a parliamentary majority, will struggle to maintain unity.

Allies of Mr Berlusconi insist his comments in the recording, from a meeting with politicians earlier this week, were taken out of context.

The billionaire media mogul described a rekindling of relations with long-time friend Mr Putin, whom he said had sent him 20 bottles of vodka and a “very sweet letter” for his birthday.

Ms Meloni's coalition wants to renegotiate Italy's part of the EU's post-Covid recovery fund, arguing the almost €200 billion ($193 billion) it expects to receive should take into account the current energy crisis, exacerbated by Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

But the funds are tied to a series of reforms only recently begun by departing Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and analysts say she has limited room to manoeuvre.

Campaigning on a platform of “God, country and family”, Ms Meloni sparked fears of a regression on rights in the Catholic-majority country.

She has distanced herself from her party's neo-fascist past — and her own, after praising dictator Benito Mussolini as a teenager — and presented herself as a straight-talking but unthreatening leader.

Inflation in Italy rose to 8.9 per cent in September over the previous year, threatening to put the country into a recession next year.

The margin for manoeuvre is limited given that its colossal debt represents 150 per cent of gross domestic product, the highest in the eurozone after Greece.

Mr Draghi used his last day on the European stage on Friday to warn both his fellow leaders and Ms Meloni that a united Europe should remain their “guiding star”.

He said everyone looked at “the EU as a source of security, stability and peace” and added: “We have to keep this in mind as a guiding star for the future, especially in troubled times like these.”

Updated: October 21, 2022, 5:53 PM
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