Saturday 22 October 2022, marks the election of Giorgia Meloni (45) as the new Italian Prime Minister. As the first woman in Italy to hold this position, it would appear that the country is progressing along with the political trends of today’s Europe. However, her ultra-conservative attitude seems to pull against the tide of modernity with her leading the first far-right-led government since World War II. Her Brothers of Italy party has neo-fascist roots stemming from the late Mussolini era, and furthermore, it exists as part of a coalition government including Matteo Salvini’s far-right League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, both men being long-time admirers of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr Berlusconi has even been recorded bragging how his beloved Putin sent him bottles of vodka for his birthday last month. It is hard to believe Meloni’s promise to govern “for everyone”. After all, this is the same woman who once called same-sex marriage “the end of humanity”. Her revolutionary victory may have been sweet but her extremely right-wing views can only mean bitter things for Italy.
Giorgia Meloni comes from a pro-fascist cultural background: she was a teenage activist in a neo-fascist party’s youth wing in Rome. Fast forward 26 years and her party has won the September 2022 elections with 26% of the vote. Although she has recently taken a more moderate political stance it is clear this façade exists only in order to appeal to the masses as a serious candidate for prime minister. When this façade fades, her fascist core will undoubtedly emerge; she has even been quoted saying: “I think Mussolini was a good politician. Everything he did, he did for Italy and we haven’t had any politicians like that in the past 50 years.”
Politicians as we know are infamous for being two-faced, but Meloni takes this to another level during her electoral campaign, where she desperately attempts to appeal to two polar-alternative audiences. One audience being international allies, for whom she emphasizes her support in defending Ukraine and her legit pro-NATO approach. The second audience, being the Italian public more specifically her traditional electorate, where the emphasis is shifted to despicable anti-migrant and anti-LGBQT+ policies.
With the double narrative she provides we must question where are Miss Musso-mini’s political priorities? “I am Giorgia, I am a woman, I am a mother, I am a Christian”. Meloni has sworn to fully enforce the law that protects access to abortion but she ironically picked an anti-abortion minister. Her policies, particularly those regarding immigration and gay rights echo sentiments from the old fascist regime. Meloni openly objects to adoption and surrogacy involving LGBTQ+ couples. She constantly reiterates her view that a child should only be raised by heterosexual parents on the basis that she is defending traditional family values. There is being a traditional conservative and then there is the crime of depriving homosexual couples of availing of IVF to conceive, and then there is Meloni who proposed extending a ban to criminalise gay couples seeking surrogate mothers abroad.
“Yes to the natural family, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology… no to Islamist violence, yes to secure borders, no to mass migration… no to big international finance… no to the bureaucrats of Brussels!”
“Meloni has the aim to abolish welfare for the unemployed whereas members of her party have visions to remodel it.”
Her government should be concerned with pressing current issues such as the rapidly approaching recession, skyrocketing inflation and possible energy shortages; however her rightest agenda appears to have her party preoccupied with the notions of “God, homeland, family”. Meloni should keep a close eye on opposition from within her party as her age and gender make her a target within the government for not being taken seriously especially given the government’s diverging views on numerous issues including regional autonomy and pensions. Meloni has the aim to abolish welfare for the unemployed whereas members of her party have visions to remodel it. Regarding immigration, she has called for migrants to be blocked in Africa, reducing immigration is a key aspect of the agenda of the coalition that Meloni and her far-right Brothers of Italy party belong to.
From the get-go of 2022, 70,000 migrants have arrived in boats on the shores of Italy, with it being one of the main entry points into Europe. However, an aim of Ms Meloni is to tighten the system for refugees to end irregular migration, which she claims threatens the safety and quality of life of the Italian people. One of her main political priorities is a naval blockade of North Africa. If Meloni’s blockade comes to fruition, it will become borderline impossible for migrants to make their status official. Despite the capital of Sicily having a long history of welcoming migrants, student Jarjou (22) fears that Meloni’s policies will fuel divisions and hatred towards migrants: “I am very worried it’s going to create a lot of negative impact on the lives of migrants like me.” Mr Jarjou abandoned his home in West Africa arriving in Palermo in December 2016 searching for a better life. His journey like that of many other migrants was a struggle to say the least. On his voyage he was imprisoned three times, luckily managing to escape each occasion. The nightmare continued as he voyaged across treacherous seas in a pathetic dinghy boat only to arrive in Sicily to be exploited for cheap labour growing watermelons and tomatoes in horrific conditions. Mr Jarjou finally awoke from this night terror when he was issued with his official documents, which he had applied for as an asylum seeker, allowing him to move to Palermo to pursue an education in nursing. “Documents are an important gateway into integration” he explains, and in their absence migrants become “invisible” and doomed to exist on the outskirts of Italian society. The future is looking bright for Mr Jarjou and he hopes to work in the capital’s hospital upon graduating. This is only one story, a lucky case at that, Mr Jarjou and many migrants alike still worry that Meloni’s intention to criminalize charity rescue ships will make it impossible for migrants to cross the sea. The terror is in how this policy “would simply lead to more deaths in the Mediterranean” according to Jarjou.
“Student Marco Marras (24) armed with a rainbow flag strutted on stage at the start of a rally being held by Meloni during her election campaign to confront her about her opposition to gay rights.”
Fear and fascism are two sides of the same coin, asylum seekers and refugees in Italy are not the only ones Ms Meloni has inflicted fear upon. There is widespread panic across the country that her leadership will trigger a dramatic increase in homophobic attacks. In 2021, a law that would have criminalised homophobia, drafted by Alessandro Zan—a gay politician from the Democratic party— was boycotted by the right-wing groups and, to the dismay of many leftists and centralists and especially the Italian LGBTQ+ community, never became a reality. Student Marco Marras (24) armed with a rainbow flag strutted on stage at the start of a rally being held by Meloni during her election campaign to confront her about her opposition to gay rights. Before security could make attempts to remove him from the stage, Marras delivered his powerful argument, that he wanted to be allowed to get married and raise a family in his home country to which Meloni crudely replied: “You want a lot of things … Everyone wants things; you already have civil unions.” Marras explained the purpose of his protest with pride: “Meloni had come to Cagliari to meet an audience of yes men, people who support her and who call her ‘great Giorgia’. I wanted to show something that her electorate doesn’t want to see or accept – LGBT people – we are not monsters but normal people who want basic rights. She practically responded: ‘Be happy with what you have’ – they think I should live a lesser life because I’m gay.” Soon after the confrontation, Marras suffered from attacks online by the public and now worries that Meloni’s government will attempt to justify homophobia, and even make attempts to morph the civil unions law. “They could amend the law to allow conscientious objectors, who for example could be mayors who are permitted to refuse a civil union for moral reasons,” Marras explains, “So, they maintain the law but block its implementation.” Italy regularly ranks as being among the worst countries in western Europe for LGBTQ+ rights and Meloni prioritizes reiterating that they won’t improve under her government.
Giorgia Meloni’s political ideology revolves around identity politics and furthermore a laser focus on defending national borders, national interests, and her notion of a “traditional family”. Her two-faced tactics may have served her well up until this point in her career but soon she will have to take concrete stances on EU policies to counter current and future European economic policies, the Russian war in Ukraine, and the resilience of Italian democracy. It is believed Meloni will face the common decline in popularity that former opposition leaders have inevitably suffered from once in government. Despite her brutal and backwards agenda we must respect what it must have taken for her as a woman to compete for and then obtain such a position within an extreme rightist government especially given her lack of experience. On the other hand we must also be fearful that this woman is clearly a determined and stubborn individual and it would seem that the “great Giorgia” has already developed the cult of personality that so many authoritarian leaders before her possessed. Is it possible that Italy is regressing back to its fascist roots? If so, is this a matter of history repeating itself or is this what it takes for an economically and politically backward country to thrive in today’s world? Is her extremist nature a desperate attempt to earn respect in a male-dominated parliament or is she genuinely the mini-Mussolini she has appeared to personify since the ripe age of 19? Who is Giorgia Meloni and what are her true intentions for Italy? Only time will tell.