Far-right leader Meloni formally asks for mandate to govern Italy

Meloni says she and her allies have asked the nation’s president to give her the mandate to assemble a new government.

The leader of Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, says she and her allies have asked the nation’s president to give her the mandate to form what would be Italy’s first far-right-led government since the end of World War II.

Meloni and her campaign allies on Friday met President Sergio Mattarella for about 10 minutes at the Quirinal presidential palace.

She emerged to tell reporters that the coalition had unanimously indicated to Mattarella that she deserved the mandate to govern.

A Quirinal official indicated Mattarella’s decision might be announced later in the day.

If Meloni, 45, succeeds, she would be the first woman to become Italian prime minister.

‘We are ready’

“We have indicated myself as the person who should be mandated to form the new government,” Meloni said, flanked by her two main, sometimes troublesome, right-wing allies – Matteo Salvini and former Premier Silvio Berlusconi. “We are ready and we want to move forward in the shortest possible time.”

She cited urgent problems “at both national and international level”, apparent references to soaring energy prices afflicting households and businesses and Russia’s all-out war in Ukraine.

Berlusconi and Salvini, who stayed silent during Meloni’s brief remarks to reporters, are longtime admirers of Russian leader Vladimir Putin; Meloni staunchly backs Ukraine in its defence against the Russian invasion. Those differences could make coalition rule challenging.

Berlusconi, a three-time prime minister, has been chafing over the election victory by Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, with its roots in neo-fascism, in the past month.

He recently derided her as “arrogant” in written comments. Earlier this week in a meeting with his lawmakers he expressed sympathy for Putin’s motivation for invading Ukraine.

In sync with the West

In response to Berlusconi’s comments that were also derogatory about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Meloni insisted that anyone joining her government must be solidly in sync with the West in opposing Putin’s war. If that meant her government could not be formed, Meloni said, she would take that risk.

Salvini has at times also questioned the wisdom of tough Western sanctions against Russia. A fellow lawmaker in Salvini’s League party, who was recently elected president of the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, has publicly expressed doubts about continuing the measures.

Outgoing Premier Mario Draghi’s national pandemic unity coalition collapsed in July, after Salvini, Berlusconi and populist 5-Star Movement leader Giuseppe Conte refused to back his government in a confidence vote.

That prompted Mattarella to dissolve parliament and pave the way for elections some six months early.

While final efforts to form the new government were under way, Draghi was in Brussels, attending the final day of a European Council summit, grappling with ways to deal with higher energy prices.

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