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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

PROFILE: Who is Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s likely next prime minister?

Leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party Giorgia Meloni was on course to become the country's first woman prime minister after exit polls on Sunday suggested a big victory for the right wing alliance. But who is she?

PROFILE: Who is Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s likely next prime minister?
Brothers of Italy party leader Giorgia Meloni at an election rally in Ancona, central Italy, on August 23rd, 2022. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

Small in stature and with poker-straight blonde hair, the 45-year-old cuts a sharp contrast with the men who overwhelmingly dominate Italian politics, and both she and her party play heavily on her personal brand.

“I am Giorgia, I am a woman, I am a mother, I am Italian, I am Christian,” she famously declared at a 2019 rally in Rome, while campaign billboards are dominated by her smiling face.

Meloni has benefited from hers being the only major party to stay out of outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government over the past 18 months, allowing her to claim she can offer voters a fresh start.

Giorgia Meloni has sought to distance her party from its post-fascist roots. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

She is fighting the election as part of a coalition with Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, but her party is eclipsing them in opinion polls.

In public speeches she is intense and combative as she rails against the European Union, mass immigration – she wants a naval blockade to stop boats coming from north Africa – as well as abortion and “LGBT lobbies”.

READ ALSO: What election promises have Italy’s political parties made so far?

“In general terms, Meloni represents a point of reference for protest, disaffection,” Sofia Ventura, professor of political science at the University of Bologna, told AFP.

Brothers of Italy grew out of the country’s post-fascist movement, but Meloni has sought to distance herself from this past – while refusing to renounce it entirely.

Meloni helped co-found the party in 2012, although they only secured four percent of the vote in 2018 compared to current polling numbers of around 24 percent.

Her own political journey goes back much further.

She was a teenage activist with the youth wing of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), formed by supporters of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini after World War II.

Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni (L) is tipped to become Italy’s next prime minister as part of a strong coalition with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italy and Matteo Salvini’s League. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

At 19, campaigning for the far-right National Alliance, she told French television that “Mussolini was a good politician, in that everything he did, he did for Italy”.

After being elected an MP for National Alliance in 2006, she repeated a popular claim among the far right in Italy that the dictator’s decisions to enact racial laws and enter World War II on Hitler’s side were “mistakes”.

Two years later, she was named minister for youth in Silvio Berlusconi’s government, at 31 the youngest minister in post-war Italy.

“The Italian right has handed fascism over to history for decades now,” she said in a trilingual video message sent to foreign correspondents this month.

She insists that within her party “there is no room for nostalgic attitudes”.

READ ALSO: An introductory guide to the Italian political system

Her party takes its name from the first line of Italy’s national anthem and its logo includes the same flame used by MSI, in the green, white and red of the country’s flag.

She has refused calls to change the logo, saying she is “proud” of it, and insisting the flame has “nothing to do with fascism”.

Born in Rome on January 15, 1977, Meloni was brought up in the working-class neighbourhood of Garbatella by her mother, after her father left.

She describes herself on her social media profiles as a “Roman, politician and journalist… but first of all, Italian”.

Meloni has a daughter, born in 2006, with her TV journalist partner.

She speaks English, Spanish and French and reportedly has close contacts with other far-right European parties, notably Spain’s Vox and Poland’s Law and Justice party.

Find all the latest news on Italy’s election race here.

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ENERGY

Italy’s Draghi criticises Germany over latest energy plan

Outgoing Italian PM Mario Draghi condemned Germany’s €200-billion energy-prices shield, saying EU ‘must act together’.

Italy's Draghi criticises Germany over latest energy plan

Outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and his likely successor have criticised Germany’s 200-billion move to shield its citizens from rising energy prices, saying Europe must act together to tackle the energy crisis.

“Faced with the common threats of our times, we cannot divide ourselves according to the amount of room in our national budgets,” Draghi said in a press release on Thursday.

READ ALSO: Electricity bills in Italy to rise by 59 percent, warns power regulator

The statement came after Germany introduced a 200-billion ($194-billion) shield to protect households and businesses from soaring energy prices, 

The measure was Germany’s move in what the country’s Finance Minister Christian Lindner described as an “energy war over prosperity and freedom” with Russia.

“The energy crisis requires a response from Europe to reduce costs for families and businesses, to limit exceptional gains made by producers and importers, […] and to keep Europe united once against in the face of an emergency,” Draghi said, commenting on Germany’s move.

At a meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels on Friday, Italy’s Roberto Cingolani reiterated Rome’s support for an EU-wide cap on the price of gas – something Draghi has long been calling for.

“Everyone has recognised that there is a priority at the moment, which is to bring down the cost of gas. But there is also a second priority, [that is] to avoid creating a shortage of gas in doing so,” Cingolani said.

READ ALSO: Portofino mayor offers residents €400 to offset energy bills

Draghi will only be in office for a few more weeks, after which he will likely be replaced by Giorgia Meloni, whose far-right Brothers of Italy party triumphed at last Sunday’s elections.

Like Draghi, Meloni has backed the idea of a European price cap thus far. 

Ahead of Friday’s energy meeting in Brussels, the soon-to-be new Italian PM also appeared to criticise Germany as she called for “an immediate European response” to the energy crisis.

“No member state can offer effective and long-term solutions on its own in the absence of a common strategy, not even those that appear less financially vulnerable,” she added.

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