Giorgia Meloni is named Italy's first woman prime minister
With Tasneem Nashrulla
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Giorgia Meloni has been appointed Italy’s first woman prime minister following her hard-right party’s victory in last month’s elections.
After a meeting Friday, Italian President Sergio Mattarella formally asked Meloni to form and lead the country's new government.
Meloni is set to be sworn in as prime minister over the weekend.
The 45-year-old nationalist firebrand has drawn concerns from opponents who have labeled her a fascist and say she will preside over the most far-right Italian government since World War II.
But Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy party, has dismissed both concerns about fascism and her teenage admiration of dictator Benito Mussolini as history. She has sought to rebrand herself as more a mainstream populist and palatable right-wing leader, even as her party retains the fascist motto, “God, family, fatherland.”
In a June speech that worried the country's civil rights and LGBTQ advocates, Meloni declared, "Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology, yes to the culture of life, no to the abyss of death, no to the violence of Islam, yes to safer borders, no to mass immigration, yes to work for our people, no to major international finance."
She has said that she will not roll back legislation on abortion or LGBTQ rights, but has campaigned against adoptions and surrogacy for same-sex couples.
Meloni's victory raised concerns about her role in maintaining Europe's united front against Russia's war on Ukraine, though she has diverged from her pro-Putin coalition partners to support Ukraine.
Days before she met with the president, comments from former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a right-wing coalition ally, threatened to impede Meloni’s negotiations to form a new government. Berlusconi was caught in a private audio recording bragging to colleagues about his friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and suggesting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was to blame for Russia’s invasion.
Meloni issued a statement saying Italy, “with its head high,” is part of Europe and the NATO alliance. “Whoever doesn’t agree with this cornerstone cannot be part of the government, at the cost of not having a government," she said.
But there have been concerns from the European Commission that she could soften her stance against sanctions on Russia, and could swerve hard right to the authoritarianism embodied by Hungary's Viktor Orbán. EU President Ursula von der Leyen suggested in a speech at Princeton University shortly after Italy’s election that the body could intervene if things in Italy "go in a difficult direction."