Italian far-right leader formally asks for mandate to govern

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Italian Far-Right Leader Formally Asks For Mandate To Govern Italian Far-Right Leader Formally Asks For Mandate To Govern
Giorgia Meloni would become Italy’s first female premier. Photo: PA Images
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By Frances D'Emilio, AP

Italian far-right leader Giorgia Meloni has said she and her allies have asked the nation’s President to give her the mandate to assemble a new government.

Ms Meloni and her allies met briefly with President Sergio Mattarella on Friday.

Some observers had expected that she would then announce that he had given her the mandate to try to form a government.

Instead, she said only that the coalition had proposed her as the next premier.

Brothers of Italy’s leader Giorgia Meloni, and party member Francesco Lollobrigida, left, arrive at the Quirinale Presidential Palace for a meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella (AP)

An official indicated Mr Mattarella’s decision might be announced later.

If Ms Meloni succeeds in forming a government, Italy would have its first far-right-led administration since the end of the Second World War.

Ms Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party has neo-fascist roots. She would also be the first woman to become Italian premier.

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Her main coalition allies, former premier Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini, are longtime admirers of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Ms Meloni staunchly backs Ukraine in its defence against the Russian invasion.

Forza Italia president Silvio Berlusconi waves to press as he leaves the Quirinale Presidential Palace (AP)

Flanked by Mr Berlusconi and Mr Salvini, the 45-year-old said on the steps of the Quirinal Presidential Palace in Rome: “We have indicated myself as the person who should be mandated to form the new government.

“We are ready and we want to move forward in the shortest possible time.”

Ms Meloni cited urgent problems “at both national and international level” – apparent references to soaring energy prices afflicting households and businesses and the war in Ukraine.

Forza Italia president Mr Berlusconi and League leader Mr Salvini stayed silent during Ms Meloni’s brief remarks to reporters.

Three-time premier Mr Berlusconi has been chafing over the election victory by Ms Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party in the past month.

He recently derided Ms Meloni as “arrogant” in written comments. Earlier this week in a meeting with his legislators, Mr Berlusconi expressed sympathy for Mr Putin’s motivation for invading Ukraine.

Mr Berlusconi poses with Brothers of Italy’s leader Giorgia Meloni and The League leader Matteo Salvini, Licia Ronzulli and other centre-right party members (AP)

In response to Mr Berlusconi’s comments that were also derogatory about Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky, Ms Meloni insisted that anyone joining her government must be solidly in synch with the West in opposing Putin’s war.

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If that meant her government could not be formed, Ms Meloni said, she would take that risk.

Mr Salvini has at times also questioned the wisdom of tough Western sanctions against Russia.

A fellow legislator in Mr Salvini’s League party who was recently elected president of the lower Chamber of Deputies has publicly expressed doubts about continuing the measures.

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

That prompted Mr 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, Mr 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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