From political wilderness to pole position to become Italy’s first female prime minister, this is the moment Giorgia Meloni has been waiting for all her political life, since she first started as a far-right teen activist in a working class district of Rome.
A hard grafter and canny politician, she presented two faces on the campaign trail this election.
Her signature hard-edged, firebrand tones on the one hand, and a more measured, conservative persona, on the other. She hoped that would attract a more mainstream vote. The gamble paid off. She’s headed for Palazzo Chigi – the prime minister’s residence. A veritable dream come true.
But not for everyone. Millions of Italians didn’t vote for her. They say they don’t recognise themselves in her nationalist, protectionist proposals, her anti-immigration rhetoric and conservative family mores.
Giorgia Meloni’s ardent nationalism really worries Brussels. Italy is the bloc’s third largest economy and one of its founding members. Ms Meloni is a deep Eurosceptic at heart. On the campaign trail she often spoke of Italy being downtrodden by the EU’s bigger and more wealthy members. And while she’s steered clear of calling for Italy to leave the euro or the European Union altogether, she is thought likely to team up with members seen by Brussels as “problematic” – Hungary and Poland – particularly when it comes to migration.
“Brussels shouldn’t panic, though,” Nicoletta Pirozzi of the International Relations Institute in Rome told me. She describes Ms Meloni as a political pragmatist, who’s clocked the importance of EU money, especially the eagerly anticipated Covid-19 funds, designed to help boost member states’ economies after the pandemic.
But fiscal discipline could certainly be a flashpoint with Brussels. Italy is one of Europe’s most indebted nations, yet Giorgia Meloni’s welfare promises are considerable. They include more support for the disabled, for childcare, for pensioners and for Italian women. Her attempt, she says, is to encourage them to have more babies and to keep the number of immigrant workers in Italy down.
Those promises add up to a lot of money. As does her business-friendly pledge of a flat tax. Realistic or not, on paper it would mean less government income to play with – and a lot of pressure to borrow more.
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