Far-right leader Giorgio Meloni becomes Italian prime minister

ROME (AP) — Giorgia Meloni’s neo-fascist party, which garnered the most votes in last month’s Italian national election, was sworn in Saturday as the country’s first far-right since the end of World War II. Prime Minister. She was also the first woman to serve as prime minister.

Meloni, 45, read her oath of office before President Sergio Mattarella, who on Friday formally asked her to form a government.

The Brothers Italia party, which she co-founded in 2012, will govern in a coalition with the right-wing Salvini coalition and the conservative Forza Italia led by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, which has lost support among voters in recent years.

Meloni signed a pledge of loyalty to Italy’s postwar republic, while Mattarella signed it against it. As head of state, the president is the guarantor of Italy’s constitution, which was drafted in the years following the end of World War II and the death of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

The 24 ministers of the Meloni government were also sworn in in a luxurious room at the Quirinal Palace.

Meloni made no public comments in her first few hours in office. She is expected to lay out her priorities when she presents her support to parliament ahead of a confidence vote in the new government next week.

If any of Berlusconi’s or Salvini’s lawmakers — who may be unhappy with ministries not getting the party they want — don’t support her, those votes could signal any cracks in the three-party coalition.

The Meloni government replaces the one led by former ECB President Mario Draghi, who was appointed by Mattarella in 2021 to lead the pandemic’s national unity coalition. Meloni has refused to join the coalition, insisting that voters must decide the composition of his government.

during her September campaign. In the general election on the 25th, Meloni insists In the event of a conflict, national interests will take precedence over EU policy.

Salvini’s right-wing League party sometimes leans towards Euroskeptics. An admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Salvini has questioned the wisdom of EU sanctions on Russia over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, arguing that they would hurt Italian business interests more than Russia.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen sounded upbeat in a congratulatory tweet, noting that Meloni was the first woman to hold the post of Prime Minister.

“I count on and look forward to working constructively with the new government on the challenges we all face,” the EU chief said.

Meloni responded to Von der Leyen on Twitter, saying she was “eager and ready to work with you to strengthen the EU’s resilience to our common challenges.”

An immediate challenge for Meloni will be to ensure that Italy remains firmly aligned with other major Western powers in helping Ukraine repel the invading Russians.

A few days before she became prime minister, Melloni issued an ultimatum to Berlusconi, another of her key coalition partners, citing his professed sympathy for Putin and disdain for the Ukrainian president.

In his speech to Forza Italia lawmakers, Berlusconi appeared to defend Russia’s invasion in February to build what he called a “decent” government in the capital of Ukraine.

After making it clear, she called for unwavering support for Ukraine, as well as NATO and the EU’s position in the Russia war – “Italy with us in government will never be the weak link in the West,” she said – Melo Nicholas, who was a loyal supporter of Berlusconi when he was foreign minister, has solid pro-EU credentials. Antonio Tajani was the President of the European Parliament.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not mention Berlusconi’s attack on him in a tweet congratulating Meloni. “I look forward to continued fruitful cooperation to ensure peace and prosperity in Ukraine, Italy and the world!” Zelensky wrote.

Meloni replied late Saturday that Italy would “always stand with the brave Ukrainian people fighting for freedom and a legitimate peace. You are not alone!”

Congratulating Melloni, U.S. President Joe Biden praised Italy as “a key ally and a close partner of NATO as our nations work together to address common global challenges.”

“As leader of the G7, I look forward to continuing to advance our support for Ukraine, hold Russia accountable for its aggression, ensure respect for human rights and democratic values, and build sustainable economic growth,” Biden said.

The new prime minister later thanked Biden for his congratulations.

“The United States and Italy are united by a deep friendship and a transatlantic partnership built on shared values,” Meloni said in a statement, referring to NATO. She added that she was eager to work together for “freedom and international security.”

With allies sympathetic to Russia and the prospect of former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, a populist opposition leader, shaken in parliament over continued arms supplies to Ukraine, Meloni named Guido, one of her party’s co-founders · Guido Crosetto is the Minister of Defense.

While Meloni claims to be a key figure in the fight against left-wing ideology, Crosseto has a softer tone.

“Whoever is in power represents the entire country, sheds partisan attire and assumes collective responsibility,” the new defense minister told reporters.

The political right in Europe, eager for hegemony on the continent, was ecstatic when Meloni came to power.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen tweeted: “Across Europe, patriots are coming to power, and this European country will join them in power.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban also praised the birth of the new Italian government as “an important day for the European right”.

In any unusual touch for a country accustomed to male-dominated politics and power, Meloni’s companion, a journalist at Berlusconi’s media empire, joined the couple’s 6-year-old daughter Ginevra. Attended the swearing-in ceremony on Saturday.


Giada Zampano in Rome contributed.

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