Italy’s new far-right prime minister Giorgia Meloni is sworn in

Italy’s new far-right prime minister Giorgia Meloni is sworn in
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni attends the first new cabinet meeting, at Chigi Palace, in Rome, Italy, October 23, 2022. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Italy, the third-largest economy in the EU, gave the largest vote share to the right-wing Brothers of Italy party leader, Giorgia Meloni, in its September 25 election. Since then, the world has been paying attention to how she will lead the most far-right government since the fascist era of Benito Mussolini. The new government faces a series of challenges, including the threat of recession, soaring energy prices and the Russia-Ukraine war.

On Saturday, Meloni was sworn in at Italy’s presidential palace. She is Italy’s youngest and first female prime minister, and this marks the first time a far-right government has come to power in the country since World War II. But Meloni is already dealing with doubts about her leadership from fresh drama surrounding her right-wing coalition ally, former leader Silvio Berlusconi, who apparently has close ties with Russian President Putin.

Berlusconi was recently recorded praising Putin and saying that Ukraine’s President Zelenskiy should be blamed for the Russia-Ukraine war. He has since backtracked, saying that his position is the same as that of the Italian government, the EU and NATO: “A condemnation of the military coup against a free and sovereign country.”

In response to his leaked comments, Meloni said in a statement last Wednesday: “Italy will never be the weak link of the West with us in government.” She’s also said she’ll not accept any ambiguity on foreign policy. Meloni emphasized that her new government’s stance will be pro-NATO and pro-Europe, and she’s assured it won’t change Italy’s pro-Ukraine stance and that she supports sending aid to Ukraine, including weapons. Meloni is up for an obligatory confidence vote in Parliament this week.

Key comments:

“I intend to lead a government with a clear and unambiguous foreign policy line. Italy is fully, and proudly, part of Europe and of NATO,” Meloni said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Any government that is born in Europe today has to choose whether to be with Putin, or with Ukraine and the European Union,” expressed Enrico Letta of the opposition Democratic Party, who has also warned that Meloni’s coalition is a threat to democracy.

“I reconnected a little bit with President Putin, quite a bit, in the sense that for my birthday he gave me 20 bottles of Vodka and a very sweet letter, and I responded with giving him bottles of Lambrusco,” said Berlusconi in a recording published by Italy’s news agency LaPresse.

“Meloni is not expressing the vote choices of radical right-wing voters, because we have data that shows that she has been voted for by mostly the center-right,” said Lorenzo De Sio, professor of political science at Luiss Guido Carli University.