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The difference between Giorgia Meloni and a fascist

How Italy’s top politician came to power—and what makes her different

Giorgia Meloni holding a placard reading in Italian “Thank you Italy” in Rome, early Monday, Sept. 26. Associated Press/Photo by Gregorio Borgia

The difference between Giorgia Meloni and a fascist

Italy is preparing to usher in a conservative coalition government, overturning decades of liberal political dominance. Giorgia Meloni, 45, is poised to become the country’s first female prime minister. But critics call her a fascist and warn she will take the country back to the dark days of dictator Benito Mussolini. Who is Meloni, and will her election change the political landscape of Italy?

Is Meloni a political novice?

Not exactly. She made her first foray into politics at the age of 15, when she joined the Youth Front, the student group of the Italian Social Movement. She won her first seat in Parliament in 2006. Two years later, then–Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi appointed her youth minister, the youngest person to fill the role. Four years later, Meloni co-founded the Fratelli d’Italia, or Brothers of Italy, party. Its candidates won the largest bloc—about 26 percent—of parliamentary seats in Sunday’s vote.

What is her personal life like?

She’s not married but has one child with her partner, journalist Andrea Giambruno. She describes herself as a Christian.

What are her policies?

Meloni has spoken strongly against illegal immigration and what she describes as “LGBTQ lobbies.” In the past, she has argued against same-sex couples adopting. While she says she is personally pro-life, she does not plan to pass new protections for the unborn. Italy has permitted abortions up to 90 days of gestation since 1978. Throughout the campaign, she used the phrase, “We will defend God, country, and family.”

By American standards, is she conservative?

Not really, according to Dalibor Rohac, a senior fellow and European analyst at the American Enterprise Institute. Rohac said the American notion of conservatism differs significantly from that of Italy, where conservatism “refers more than anything else to the preservation of … the established order against too much of a disruptive change.”

Critics call her a fascist. Is that accurate?

Many news reports describe the Brothers of Italy as having neo-fascist roots. That’s based on its founders’ ties to the National Alliance party, which itself stemmed from the Italian Social Movement. But Meloni has tried to distance herself from her more radical predecessors. In a campaign video, she declared, “The Italian right has handed fascism over to history for decades now, unambiguously condemning the suppression of democracy and the ignominious anti-Jewish laws.” During her election campaign, she focused her platform primarily on ideological issues, like family and freedom, rather than social reform such as tax cuts and boosting Italy’s productivity.

While Meloni may have had early connections to fascist groups, Rohac said her policies do not seem particularly alarming. “If anything, it’s really a confirmation of previously existing trends that these parties have presented themselves as out of the mainstream and speaking on behalf of ordinary people against a corrupt and self-serving elite.”

Does she plan to distance Italy from the EU?

Meloni favors prioritizing her country’s interests and has criticized the European Union in the past. But Italy cannot afford to make enemies with its neighbors and might need financial assistance in the near future. The country might be on the brink of economic recession due to inflation and rising energy prices. Most of Italy’s natural gas comes from Russia, and like much of the rest of Europe, it’s seen energy prices skyrocket. Until Meloni and her party can address the weakening economy, other issues are likely to take a back seat.

These summarize the news that I could never assemble or discover by myself. —Keith

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