Far-right Meloni accepts job as Italian PM

Italy’s far-right leader Giorgia Meloni has formally accepted the job of forming the next government at the head of the country’s most right-wing administration since World War Two.

She was greeted by President Sergio Mattarella, less than a month after her Brothers of Italy party won elections.

Ms Meloni and her allies saw him earlier, and declared they were ready to govern “as quickly as possible”.

Italy’s first female PM and her cabinet will be sworn in on Saturday.

She takes over from a very different leader in Mario Draghi who was brought in to run a country struggling to emerge from the effects of coronavirus and economic crisis.

Nato member Italy is the EU’s third biggest economy and Ms Meloni has sought to assure its Western allies that nothing will change in its foreign policy.

She made the short trip to the presidential palace in a white Fiat 500 car, before a private meeting with the president that lasted well over an hour. She then announced who would be in her cabinet.

Her government will include Matteo Salvini’s far-right League and the right-of-centre Forza Italia of Silvio Berlusconi – the 86-year-old former prime minister who for days has been at the centre of a row surrounding two leaked recordings that underlined his pro-Putin views and shook the coalition.

After the leaders had an 11-minute meeting with President Mattarella on Friday morning, she said the new team was “ready to give Italy a government that confronts with awareness and competence the urgency and challenges of our time”. Former Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi said beyond politics it was an important day: “For the first time we’ll have a woman at the helm in Italy.”

Only six of her government’s 24 ministers are women. They include a minister for Family and Birth Rate, Eugenia Roccella, who has described abortion as the “dark side of motherhood”.

The new Regional Affairs Minister, Roberto Calderoli, is well known in Italy for likening Italy’s first black cabinet minister to an orangutan.

Mr Berlusconi, who is not in the cabinet, has nevertheless overshadowed its formation. Leaked audio of his pro-Putin remarks piled pressure on Giorgia Meloni, 45, who has long sought to emphasise her pro-Atlanticist credentials.

In the first audio leak, he was heard boasting that Russian President Vladimir Putin had sent him 20 bottles of vodka for his birthday and called him “number one among his five best friends”.

  

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