The leader of the far right has criticized the European Union in the past, and she often attacks illegal immigrants and George Soros. But she’s closer than ever to becoming the leader of the country.
Giorgia Meloni is the hard-right leader of a party with post-Fascist roots. She is the favorite to become Italy’s next prime minister after elections this month. Meloni is known for her rhetorical crescendos, thundering tones, and fierce speeches in which she attacks gay-rights groups, European bureaucrats, and illegal immigrants.
But she became quiet when asked one night if she agreed with the historical consensus that the Fascist leader Benito Mussolini, whom she had admired as a “good politician” when she was young, was bad for Italy and bad for the world.
“Yeah,” she said between sips of an Aperol Spritz and puffs on a thin cigarette during an interview in Sardinia, where she had just finished another loud political rally.
This one simple syllable said a lot about Ms. Meloni’s campaign to reassure people around the world as she seems to be on track to become the first politician from a post-Fascist family to lead Italy since World War II.
Not too long ago, this was unthinkable, and Ms. Meloni, who would be the first woman to lead Italy, is walking a high-stakes tightrope to make it happen. She is trying to convince her hard-right base of “patriots” that she hasn’t changed, while also trying to convince international skeptics that she’s not an extremist, that the past is the past and not the future, and that Italy’s mostly moderate voters trust her, so
Italy’s national elections will be held for the first time since 2018 on September 25. During those years, three governments with very different political views came and went. The last one was a broad national unity government led by Mario Draghi, a technocrat who was the personification of pro-European stability.
Ms. Meloni was in charge of the Brothers of Italy, which was the only major party that didn’t join the unity government. This gave her the votes of the opposition. Her support in polls steadily grew from 4% in 2018 to 25% in a country where even moderate voters are tired of being called Fascist or Communist, but are still excited about new leaders who could be lucky.