Politics a family affair for Italy’s Giorgia Meloni - GulfToday

Politics a family affair for Italy’s Giorgia Meloni

Giorgia Meloni delivers a speech at the Arenile di Bagnoli beachfront location in Naples. AFP

Giorgia Meloni delivers a speech at the Arenile di Bagnoli beachfront location in Naples. AFP

A like-minded sister, a brother-in-law tipped for government and a campaigning mother — politics is a family affair for Italian far-right leader Giorgia Meloni, even if her partner votes left. The 45-year-old is on course to become the first woman to be Italy’s prime minister after her Brothers of Italy party, which has neo-fascist roots, triumphed in Sunday’s general election. The self-described “Christian mother” has put defending traditional family values at the heart of her campaign, and her own family is key to both her backstory and her support network.

Meloni is very close with her older sister Arianna, who like her was involved in politics from a young age and who Meloni described as “the most important person in my life” before her daughter Ginevra was born in 2016. Arianna is also part of the Brothers of Italy family, married to Francesco Lollobrigida, head of the party’s parliamentary group in the lower Chamber of Deputies and tipped for a ministerial post in a Meloni-led government.

Talking to La Stampa daily after the election, Arianna described her sister as “very brave and very determined” and a “perfectionist”. She rejected suggestions that Meloni — who campaigned on a motto of “God, country and family” — would change Italy’s abortion laws, saying: “She is on the side of women and acquired rights.” The sisters were brought up in the working-class Rome neighbourhood of Garbatella by their mother, Anna Paratore, who has herself a keen interest in politics. In an interview with French television in 1996, in which then-teen activist Meloni praised dictator Benito Mussolini, Paratore was presented as a long-time activist for the post-fascist right.

After the elections, her mother — a romantic novelist who has been an enthusiastic supporter of her daughter’s career — dismissed as “nonsense” concern about Meloni’s radical past. Paratore added that she would be happy to see the end of the citizens’ income, an anti-poverty measure criticised for encouraging unemployment that Meloni has pledged to abolish.

“I rejoice in her success, but I don’t know if I would have wished her all this,” she told Corriere della Sera newspaper, noting the challenges ahead. Paratore brought up her daughters alone after their father walked out when Meloni was very young, moving to the Spanish Canary Islands. In her best-selling autobiography published last year, Meloni describes how her mother almost had an abortion when she was pregnant with her, only to change her mind at the last minute.

Meloni also wrote about the absence of her father, saying it left “perhaps a deeper wound than a father who dies... because when he leaves you are forced to deal with his ghost”. Meloni holds up her own experience of parenthood as part of her appeal, declaring in a 2019 speech that went viral: “I am Giorgia, I am a woman, I am a mother, I am Italian, I am Christian.”

The day after Sunday’s vote, she posted on Instagram a note from six-year-old Ginevra, saying: “Dear mummy, I am so happy that you won. I love you so much!” Ginevra’s father is television journalist Andrea Giambruno, 41, who Meloni met while giving an interview. She recounted in her book how he took away the remains of a banana she had been eating during a commercial break before she went back on air.

“Andrea is intelligent and confident in himself. He is very good at his job, and this makes him one of the few men in the world capable of not suffering if they have a successful woman next to them,” she wrote. Giambruno — who the press note would become Italy’s “First Gentleman” if Meloni becomes premier — also votes for the left, she has admitted in interviews.

The couple are not married but Meloni has little time for those who suggest her marital situation is at odds with her political emphasis on the importance of children having a mother and a father. “I have heard this nonsense very often,” she wrote in her book. “If you are not married you cannot defend the natural family based on marriage. A bit like saying you if you are young, you cannot care about the problems of the elderly.”

Meanwhile, Meloni and her allies began on Tuesday what is likely to be a weeks-long process of forming a new government, with crises looming on several fronts. Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party, which triumphed in Sunday’s elections, has no experience of power but must assemble a cross-party team to tackle sky-high inflation and energy prices, and relations with a wary Europe.

The 45-year-old is hoping to be the first woman to lead Italy as prime minister, but needs her allies, Matteo Salvini’s far-right League party and former Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, for a majority in parliament.

The division of the top jobs — notably economy, foreign affairs, the defence and interior ministries — will always be political but now, more than ever, “will have to reflect areas of expertise”, the Stampa daily noted. In the past, it has taken anything between four and 12 weeks for a new administration to take office.

But the first deadline for action is coming up fast, with debt-laden Italy due to submit its draft plan for next year’s budget to Brussels by October 15.

President Sergio Mattarella will begin consultations on who should lead the new government only once the Senate and Chamber presidents have been elected by parliament, which meets on October 13. With families and businesses struggling with huge bills aggravated by the Ukraine war, sorting out the budget will be “like scaling Everest without oxygen tanks for the new cabinet”, the Corriere della Sera daily said. Meloni sought to reassure investors during the election campaign that, despite her radical past, she will be a safe pair of hands.

But the Italian ten-year bond rate increased to its highest level since October 2013 on Tuesday morning. And the gap between German and Italian interest rates, the closely watched spread, rose above 250 points for the first time since the depths of the coronavirus pandemic in spring 2020.

Agencies

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