Meloni Ascendant

When Giorgia Meloni became Italy’s Prime Minister last fall, we hailed her election. Of course, that was not a unanimous reaction: the usual suspects denounced her as a crypto-fascist and predicted her regime would be short-lived.

Of course, in Italy that prediction is never a long shot. Nevertheless, so far, at least, Meloni has thrived, as the London Times grudgingly admits: “Called a danger, now Giorgia Meloni is EU’s most popular leader.”

When Giorgia Meloni became Italy’s first female prime minister last October her harshest opponents presented her as a danger to her country and to Europe.

There were warnings that politicians within her Brothers of Italy party were too openly nostalgic for the days of Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator. Battles with the European Union and the financial markets were anticipated over her economic plans. Critics speculated about how long a leader with little government experience could hold together a three-party coalition that includes two of her biggest rivals on the right.

Instead Meloni, 46, has emerged from her unexpectedly smooth first 100 days in office, completed last week, as the most popular leader in the EU.

To be fair, some would say that is damning with faint praise. But still.

A fairly conservative budget passed in record time in December has kept Brussels and the bond dealers sweet, while in the past week she has clinched a landmark $8 billion (£6.6 billion) deal with Libya to supply gas and been hosted by the leaders of Sweden and Germany. A trip to Kyiv is expected soon. Her authority over her far more seasoned coalition partners Silvio Berlusconi, 86, and Matteo Salvini, 49, appears unchallenged.

An EU summit starting next Thursday could see some sympathy for Meloni’s tough line on migration, while her approval rating, at 52 per cent, is far higher than that of any of the other leaders who will be seated around the table with her, according to Morning Consult, a US-based global decision intelligence company.

Liberal critics failed to understand Meloni and Brothers of Italy:

If this is a surprise, then it is because her critics — especially those abroad — got her and her party wrong, according to Francesco Giubilei, author of a book on the prime minister, who now works as an adviser to the culture ministry.

Under her leadership, Brothers of Italy has “followed a path that has turned it into a conservative party”, similar to its counterparts in the English-speaking world, but with a Latin, Catholic flavour, he argues.

The Times adds that Brothers of Italy is likely to gain ground in upcoming elections in Lazio and Lombardy.

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