A ‘Christian mother’ guides Italy’s far-right to the brink of power

The leader of the Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Melonia, underlines her role as “Christian, wife and mother” – Copyright AFP Andy Buchanan

Alice RITCHIE, Gael BRANCHEREAU

As a young activist she praised Mussolini, but as the leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni sought to detoxify her country’s post-fascist movement – and brought it on the verge of power.

Opinion polls put Italy’s right-wing coalition on track to take office after the September 25 election, with Meloni’s party leading, making her a strong contender to be the country’s first female prime minister. .

Short in stature and with poker-straight blonde hair, the 45-year-old stands in stark contrast to the men who normally dominate Italian politics, and she and her party play heavily on her personal brand.

“I am Giorgia, I am a woman, I am a mother, I am Italian, I am a Christian,” she told a rally in Rome in 2019, as campaign billboards are dominated by his smiling face.

Brothers of Italy was born out of the country’s post-fascist movement, but Meloni sought to distance himself from the past, while refusing to renounce it altogether.

In public speeches, she is intense and combative as she denounces the European Union, mass immigration – she wants a naval blockade to deal with ships coming from North Africa – as well as abortion and LGBT lobby.

She is fighting for the election as part of a coalition with Matteo Salvini’s Anti-Immigration League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, but her party is eclipsing them in the opinion polls.

– Mussolini made “mistakes” –

Meloni has benefited from being the only major party to stay out of incumbent Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government for the past 18 months, allowing her to claim she can offer voters a fresh start.

“In general, Meloni represents a point of reference for protest, disaffection,” said Sofia Ventura, professor of political science at the University of Bologna.

Meloni helped co-found Brothers of Italy in 2012, although they only got 4% of the vote in 2018, compared to current poll figures of around 24%.

His own political career goes back much further.

She was a teenage activist in the youth wing of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), formed by supporters of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini after World War II.

A 19-year-old activist in the far-right National Alliance, she declared on French television that “Mussolini was a good politician, in the sense that everything he did, he did for Italy”.

After being elected as a National Alliance MP in 2006, she changed her tune, saying the dictator had made ‘mistakes’, including race laws, his authoritarianism and entering World War II alongside Hitler .

Two years later, she was appointed Minister of Youth in the government of Silvio Berlusconi, at 31, the youngest minister in post-war Italy.

– Fascism is part of history –

His party takes its name from the first line of the Italian national anthem and its logo includes the same flame used by the MSI, in the green, white and red of the country’s flag.

She refused calls to change the logo, insisting the flame has ‘nothing to do with fascism’ – and blaming the opposite of ‘the left’.

“The Italian right has been making history of fascism for decades,” she said in a trilingual video message sent to foreign correspondents this month.

She insists that within her party “there is no place for nostalgic attitudes”.

Going further, she declared in a recent interview with the British magazine The Spectator: “If I were a fascist, I would say that I am a fascist. Instead, I never talked about fascism because I’m not a fascist.

Born in Rome on January 15, 1977, Meloni was raised in the working-class neighborhood of Garbatella by her mother, after her father left them.

Meloni herself has a daughter, born in 2006, with her TV journalist partner whom she did not marry.

She speaks English, Spanish and French and has good contacts with other European parties, including Vox in Spain and Law and Justice in Poland.

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