The center-right coalition led by nationalist Giorgia Meloni secured a parliamentary majority in Italy's general elections on Sunday, according to exit polls. Speaking early Monday, Meloni said Italians had sent "a clear message" in backing her alliance. "If we are called upon to govern this nation, we will do so for all Italians, with the aim of uniting the people, of exalting what unites them rather than what divides them," she told reporters. "We will not betray your trust." Her remarks came shortly after the main center-left group, the Democratic Party, conceded defeat.
Politicians across the ideological spectrum in Germany have expressed concern about Giorgia Meloni's electoral success. However, the far-right AfD voiced support for Meloni, who looks likely to be Italy's next leader.
Meloni said she has an unbroken relationship with history. Dictator Mussolini was "a complex personality," she has said in interviews. Even today, many Italians don't think everything was bad under Mussolini. Meloni has not clearly distanced herself from fascism; in her 2021 autobiography, she wrote that she is aware she is navigating a political minefield. "We are children of our history. Of our whole history. As is the case with all other nations, the path we have traveled is complex, much more complicated than many want to make known," she wrote. She does, however, reject the cult of the leader common to fascism, she added. But when Meloni holds press conferences at the party headquarters, a fascist symbol is always in plain view — the logo of the Brothers of Italy. It's a stylized flame in the Italian national colors — green, white and red — an eternal flame that burns figuratively at Mussolini's grave. "I have nothing to apologize for in my life. But in two out of three television discussions, I'm supposed to talk about history and not about current politics. I don't think that's right." Last fall, in preparation for the election campaign leading up to the vote on September 25, Meloni sent out internal memos to party groups instructing them to stop making extreme statements, to refrain from making references to fascism and, above all, to refrain from the so-called Roman salute, a gesture with an outstretched right arm which resembles the Hitler or Nazi salute.
The politician wants to move the party from the political fringes, from the extreme right to center right. Meloni is seeking to remold the party and pitch it as a conservative champion of patriotism that appeals to the middle class to form a coalition with other right-wing parties — Matteo Salvini's League and Forza Italia, led by former premier Silvio Berlusconi.
"If she has made it this far in Italy, it's thanks to all those who have whitewashed her — from the media who insist on calling Salvini and Meloni center right to Berlusconi and the Grillini [followers of the left-leaning 5-Star Movement — Editor's note], who brought her to power, and a disoriented center left that underestimated and legitimized her," said Alba Sidera, a Spanish journalist who has for years researched the Italian far right. "Meloni did not suddenly appear out of nowhere. She has been preparing to become prime minister for years."
Born in 1977, Meloni joined the youth wing of the neofascist Italian Social Movement party when she was 15 to take a stand against the far-left terror that plagued Italy during that era. She later led the student branch of the far-right National Alliance, was elected to the Italian Parliament's Chamber of Deputies in 2006, and became Italy's youngest minister two years later. At the age of 31, she took over the youth portfolio in Berlusconi's government. Ten years ago, Meloni co-founded the Brothers of Italy, which she has led since 2014. In 2020, she also took over the chairmanship of the EuropeanConservatives and Reformists party, which includes, among others, the Polish ruling party, PiS. Meloni headed into the election campaign with the populist slogan "Italy and Italian people first!" She has called for more family-friendly benefits, less European bureaucracy, low taxes and a halt to immigration. She wants to renegotiate EU treaties, and her party rejects abortions and same-sex marriage. In terms of economic and foreign policy, the trained foreign language secretary is relatively inexperienced. She has spent most of her political career as a member of parliament and a party official.
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