Giorgia Meloni was sworn in as Italy’s prime minister alongside her cabinet on Saturday, giving the country its most right-wing government since World War II.
Meloni takes office at an especially tense time, with the Italian economy burdened with debt and back on track for recession, businesses sinking under the weight of rising energy bills and divisions within his coalition over the war in Ukraine.
Standing under the crystal chandeliers of a frescoed room of the presidential palace, Meloni was sworn in before the eyes of her six-year-old daughter.
Leader of the nationalist Brothers of Italy party, Meloni swept last month’s election at the head of a coalition that included Forza Italia — led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi — and Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigrant League.
His government, the twelfth this century, replaces a national unity administration led by former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi, who led European Union efforts to sanction Russia after it invaded Ukraine in February.
Meloni pledged support for Ukraine, but Berlusconi repeatedly disavowed it, blaming Kiev for the war this week and revealing that he exchanged gifts and “sweet letters” with his old friend, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
After several days of often tense talks, Meloni unveiled his team on Friday, giving five ministries to the League and Forza Italia and reserving nine cabinet posts for his own party.
Technocrats make up the rest of the 24-person team, which has only six women and the average age is 60.
Italy’s ever-weak economy and growing national debt have been entrusted to Giancarlo Giorgetti, considered a moderate member of the League. The Foreign Ministry was handed over to Forza Italia veteran Antonio Tajani, considered a quiet pro-European.
Tajani told a local TV channel that his first act would be to call his Ukrainian counterpart to assure him of Italy’s continued solidarity.
PATRIOTS COME TO POWER
Meloni’s party has neo-fascist roots, but she tried to project a moderate image during the election campaign, abandoning previous anti-European rhetoric and promising to keep Italy at the heart of European and Western institutions.
European Commission leaders in Brussels sent congratulatory messages to him on Saturday.
“I count on and look forward to constructive cooperation with the new government on the challenges we face together,” he wrote on Twitter the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
Meloni also drew praise from European nationalist conservatives, who hope his government will be a powerful ally in their regular battles with Brussels.
“Congratulations Giorgia Meloni on the formation of your government! Great day for the European right,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban wrote on Twitter.
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen tweeted: “All over Europe, patriots are coming to power.”
Meloni is scheduled to hold his first cabinet meeting on Sunday following the formal transfer of power with Draghi.
He will then face mandatory confidence votes in Parliament during the week, which he will easily win given his comfortable majority.