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Giorgia Meloni set to become Italy’s first female PM after hard right’s victory

Near final results show her alliance should have a solid majority in both houses of parliament after earning 44% of the vote in an election with low voter turnout

Giorgia Meloni casts her vote on Sunday.
Giorgia Meloni casts her vote on Sunday.Gianluca Battista

Giorgia Meloni looks set to become Italy’s first female prime minister as well as the head of the country’s most right-wing government since World War II after leading her alliance to victory at Sunday’s election. With over 97% of the vote counted, results showed the rightist bloc - which includes Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, Matteo Salvini’s far-right League and former PM Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia - should have a solid majority in both houses of parliament, potentially giving Italy a rare chance of political stability after years of upheaval and fragile coalitions.

“Giorgia Meloni has won,” Italy’s biggest-circulation daily, Corriere della Sera, splashed on its frontpage, while the right-leaning Il Tempo ran with “It’s Giorgia’s turn.” Near-final results showed over 26% support for Meloni, followed by slightly over 16% for the center-left Enrico Letta, 15% for 5-Star Movement leader Giuseppe Conte, close to 9% for Matteo Salvini and 8% for Silvio Berlusconi.

Meloni and her allies face a daunting list of challenges, including soaring energy prices, the war in Ukraine and a renewed slowdown in the euro zone’s third largest economy.

“We must remember that we are not at the end point, we are at the starting point. It is from tomorrow that we must prove our worth,” the 45-year-old Meloni told cheering supporters of her nationalist Brothers of Italy party early Monday morning.

Meloni likes play down her party’s post-fascist roots, instead portraying it as a mainstream group like Britain’s Conservatives. She has pledged to back Western policy on Ukraine and not take risks with Italy’s fragile finances. European capitals and financial markets will carefully scrutinize her early moves, given her eurosceptic past and her allies’ ambivalent position on Russia.

In her victory speech, Meloni struck a conciliatory tone. “If we are called on to govern this nation we will do it for all Italians, with the aim of uniting the people and focusing on what unites us rather than what divides us,” she said. “This is a time for being responsible.”

By contrast, her main ally suffered a disastrous night, as Matteo Salvini’s League picked up only around 9% of the vote, down more than 17% from four years ago.

The other major conservative party, Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, scored around 8%.

Despite the clearcut result, the vote was not a ringing endorsement for the conservative alliance. Turnout was just 64% against 73% four years ago – a record low in a country that has historically had strong voter participation.

The right took full advantage of Italy’s electoral law, which benefits parties that forge pre-ballot alliances. Center-left and center parties failed to craft similar deals and even though they won more votes than the conservatives, they ended up with far fewer seats in parliament. The center-left Democratic Party (PD) took around 19% of the vote, while the left-leaning, unaligned 5-Star Movement scored around 15%, a result above expectations. The centrist “Action” group attracted just over 7%.

The results have shaken the political landscape of Italy, which has seen 68 different governments in the last 76 years. Sunday’s election was triggered after former prime minister Mario Draghi resigned due to party infighting.

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