Italy’s Giorgia Meloni Is Defying Early Expectations

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on March 16, 2023 in Rome. (Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images)

Just who is Giorgia Meloni? The image presented in the media is at odds with her actual record in her first six months as Italy’s prime minister.

The Associated Press led the news of her election thus: “Her heart steeped in far-right tenets, as a young teen Giorgia Meloni embarked on an ideological quest that has propelled her—30 years later—to the height of government power.” More recently, the state-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation asked, “Is Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni a Fascist?” The Atlantic all but labeled her a Nazi. Thus far, that narrative is wrong.

That’s not to say the accusations are entirely fabricated. At the age of 15, Meloni joined the Italian Social Movement (MSI), a post-World War II successor to Mussolini’s short-lived Repubblica Sociale. At the age of 19, she praised Italy’s former Duce, Benito Mussolini: “I think [he] was a good politician. Everything he did, he did for Italy.” The party Meloni founded, Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy), has a name reminiscent of the fascist era, and Meloni chose explicitly to use a tricolor flame (fiamma tricolore) as its symbol, borrowed from the MSI. It’s not quite a swastika, but it isn’t just the Italian flag, either.

Is Meloni another Duce? A victim of her youthful political indiscretions? A conservative anathema to the mainstream media? Or a little of everything? There is no decisive answer. Branding her a fascist because of her political choices at 15 would be ridiculous; such charges were harder to avoid after her adult decision to rebrand her party with the odious fiamma. Then, too, there are her coalition partners. The circus-like Italian political system denies any party a pure majority, affording extremist parties a place in governing. Meloni’s coalition is no different. 

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