International

A Far-Right Leader, Italy's First Woman PM Giorgia Meloni Begins Her Two-day India Visit

All eyes will be focused on Italy's first woman Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, as she arrives in Delhi on a two-day state visit. Meloni will hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and be the keynote speaker at the Raisina Dialogue, New Delhi’s flagship conference on geopolitics and geoeconomics.

Italy's first woman PM Giorgia Meloni.
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Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s first woman Prime Minister is a firebrand politician and leads the country’s most far-right government since Benito Mussolini’s Republican Fascist Party.

All eyes will be focused on her as she arrives in Delhi on Thursday on a two-day state visit. Meloni will hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and be the keynote speaker at the Raisina Dialogue, New Delhi’s flagship conference on geopolitics and geoeconomics.

As head of Brothers of Italy, her nationalist conservative party, she together with Hungary’s Viktor Orban has succeeded in bringing fringe groups into the political mainstream, signalling Europe’s third largest economy turn to the right. Growing disenchantment with traditional parties has led to the growth of populist outfits across Europe.  

Meloni like other populist leaders is an excellent orator and can quickly fire up her support base with rantings against immigrants taking away jobs from White Italians. Her assumption that the LGBT community is breaking up natural families, and her views on George Soros, a pet hate object of right-wing groups, would find resonance among many in India. At 46, she is relatively young and growing in popularity with her straight talks on issues that worry ordinary Italians.

"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!", this was Meloni speaking on her political views at a rally.

Anti-immigration, anti-LGBT rights, staunch Christian and White, the anti-big government are all part of the conservative agenda. Her dislike for George Soros will appeal to many in the Indian establishment.

But as the prime minister, she has had to soften her views and thanks to economic and political considerations work in cooperation with both NATO and the Brussels bureaucracy. Unlike her coalition partner former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia, she, like the rest of European leadership, is pro-Ukraine. Berlusconi a friend of Vladimir Putin has refrained from publicly criticizing the Russian leader. Though Meloni herself was once a Putin admirer, she has now changed her views. She had made it a point to visit Ukraine and personally extend Italy’s support to President Zelenskyy.

Italy’s economic woes are also making her work closely with the EU, though like most right-wing factions in Europe, she is a eurosceptic.

Meloni is rigidly opposed to the LGBT community, believing they are an aberration and against religion. "They want to call us parent 1, parent 2, gender LGBT, citizen X, with code numbers. But we are not code numbers… and we’ll defend our identity. I am Giorgia. I am a woman. I am a mother. I am Italian, I am Christian. You will not take that away from me!", she said.

Not surprising then that Hungary’s PM is a friend of the Italian PM. She is an admirer of Donald Trump and regards American political strategist and former Trump White House official Steve Bannon as a friend with whom she shares ideas. She vehemently denies that she is a fascist and an admirer of Mussolini and blames the liberal press in Italy and Europe for painting her as such.

Meloni's childhood

Meloni was born in a working-class neighbourhood in central Rome and brought up by a single mother. She has an older sister Arianna. She had a tough childhood as her father abandoned her mother shortly after she was born. When she heard a few years back of the death of her estranged father, she said, "My father is dead and I do not feel any emotion towards him".

Further, she added, "This angers me because I would like at least to hate him". In fact, if her father had his way, she would not have been born. He had not wanted a second child and her mother fixed an appointment in an abortion clinic as advised by her husband. But on the way, while she sat at a coffee shop she changed her mind and decided to keep the child.

Meloni said she herself will never ever have an abortion. Though she is against abortion she is not about to scrap Italy’s abortion law, which allows a woman to make a choice within 90 days of pregnancy. Meloni has a six-year-old daughter with her partner, a TV journalist. But surprisingly, despite her strong views on the family she is not married to him.

She was good at her studies in school but could not afford a university education. At 15, she joined a neo-fascist party MSI but said that she did so because at that time the Sicilian mafia had killed two prosecutors. She was shocked and angry and wanted to do something. So she joined the small fringe MSI party that seemed not to be touched by the general corruption and uselessness that mainstream parties displayed.

Her Brothers of Italy party, founded in 2012, had previously been able to muster just around four per cent of votes. But in the course of just about a decade was able to dramatically extend its voting percentage to 44, last September. She is passionate about personal liberty. Her party staunchly opposed Italy’s Covid vaccine policy that stopped those refusing to take the vaccine from work and public spaces. "They did things that in a democratic state should never happen," she said in an interview.

"It is just surreal to think the state is telling you if you can or cannot work to earn a living to give food to your children. But they called us fascists because we contested the fact that people were no longer free," she added.

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