Who is the far-right Italian leader Giorgia Meloni?
Italy’s far-right Brothers of Italy party swept to victory in elections this week and is prepared to form the most conservative government in the nation since World War II.
The head of that party, and now Italy’s incoming prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, has pushed for a new direction in her country centered on Italian, Christian and family values.
Meloni, 45, is set to become Italy’s first female premier. She’s a far-right firebrand from Rome who is known for a line she delivered at a 2019 rally: “I am Giorgia, I am a woman, I am a mother, I am Italian, I am Christian.”
She echoed a similar theme during a Monday speech in which she declared victory for Brothers of Italy and announced her conservative, populist agenda for her country.
“We will defend God, country and family,” Meloni declared. “Those things that disgust people so much. We will do it to defend our freedom, because we will never be slaves and simple consumers at the mercy of financial speculators. That is our mission. That is why I came here today.”
Fears of an ultraconservative Italian government under Meloni’s rule rippled across the Western world, with European leaders watching the new government with discomfort and vigilance.
Italy is a founding member of the European Union and boasts the third-largest economy in the 27-member nation bloc. The Brothers of Italy rise to power comes after other far-right parties in France and Sweden have also gained political ground.
At a White House briefing Monday, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration would not “engage in any hypotheticals” about the election outcome, but promised to continue cooperation.
“We will work with the new Italian government on the full range of shared global challenges,” Jean-Pierre said.
Meloni was born in 1977 to a working-class family in Garbatella, Rome, where she was raised by a single mother.
Meloni’s political roots stretch back to her teenage years as a member of the youth wing of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), which was formed after World War II by supporters of Benito Mussolini, a fascist dictator who supported Nazi Germany.
A few years after MSI morphed into the National Alliance (AN) in the ’90s, Meloni was appointed president of the political party’s youth movement. She became a member of parliament at the age of 29, according to Al Jazeera.
When AN merged with the centre-right party Forza Italia, Meloni was tapped as a minister in charge of the party’s youth wing in 2008 under Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Cabinet.
Meloni co-founded the Brothers of Italy party after Berlusconi was ousted from power in 2011, saying she had grown discontented with outside European forces meddling in Italian politics.
She became president of the party in 2014 and led it through a significant growth period in the 2018 election. In the 2022 race, her party captured 26 percent of the vote.
Her party uses the MSI logo of the red, white and green tricolor flame, a symbol shared by Mussolini’s National Fascist Party.
However, Meloni and the Brothers of Italy have danced carefully around questions about the former dictator, who is widely abhorred in Italy.
Meloni’s rise was celebrated by Republican lawmakers in the U.S. Her speech this week hinted at familiar talking points from America’s GOP, including railing against mass migration and LGBTQ+ rights.
“The time has arrived,” Meloni said on Monday. “We are ready.”