Italy takes step into unknown with far-right win

2. Italy
Leader of Italian far-right party “Fratelli d’Italia” (Brothers of Italy), Giorgia Meloni reacts as she holds a placard reading “Thank You Italy” after she delivered an address at her party’s campaign headquarters overnight on September 26, 2022 in Rome, after the country voted in a legislative election. (Photo: AFP)

ROME — Italy took a sharp turn to the right Monday after Giorgia Meloni’s Eurosceptic Populist Party swept to victory in general elections, putting the one-time Mussolini admirer on course to become the first woman to lead the country.اضافة اعلان

Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which has neo-fascist roots, is set to win around 26 percent of the vote in Sunday’s election, while her wider coalition secured a clear majority in parliament.

With former premier Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini’s far-right League, they will now begin forming the most right-wing government since World War II, a process likely to take weeks.

Meloni’s success represents a seismic change in Italy — a founding member of the EU and the eurozone’s third-largest economy — and for the EU, just weeks after the far-right performed strongly in Sweden’s elections.

Meloni used her first public statement to emphasize unity, saying she would govern “for all Italians”.

But the 45-year-old, whose party has never held office, has huge challenges ahead, from soaring inflation to a looming energy crisis and the war in Ukraine.

‘Proud, free Europe’

Congratulations flooded in from Meloni’s European nationalist allies, from Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to Spain’s far-right party Vox.

“Meloni has shown the way for a proud, free Europe of sovereign nations,” Vox leader Santiago Abascal tweeted.

But Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares warned that “populist movements always grow, but it always ends in the same way — in catastrophe”.

A spokesman for the European Commission said it hoped for “constructive cooperation” with the new government, a line echoed by the Kremlin.

“We are eager to work with Italy’s government on our shared goals: supporting a free and independent Ukraine, respecting human rights, and building a sustainable economic future,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

“Italy is a very Europe-friendly country with very Europe-friendly citizens, and we assume that won’t change,” added a spokesman for German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Meloni and Salvini are strongly Eurosceptic, although they no longer want Italy to leave the eurozone.

The Brothers of Italy head says Rome must assert its interests more, and has policies that look set to challenge Brussels on everything from public spending rules to mass migration.

Her coalition also wants to renegotiate Italy’s part of the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund, arguing the almost 200 billion euros it expects to receive should take into account the energy crisis.

But the funds are tied to a series of reforms only just begun by outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and analysts say she has limited room for maneuver.

Meloni campaigned on a platform of “God, country and family”, sparking fears of regression on rights in the Catholic-majority country.

Berlusconi struck a Europe-friendly note, pledging the new government would maintain a “European profile” and adding that “good relations with our historic allies and the big countries of the EU are essential for Italy’s future”.

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