Giorgia Meloni claimed victory early Monday morning and is projected to win a battle to become Italy’s first female prime minister, leading her conservative party Brothers of Italy in the country’s national elections.
Her party indicated Meloni’s center-right coalition had received 44% of the vote with nearly all ballots counted on Monday, far ahead of the nation’s center-left coalition that received just 26%.
“If we are called to govern this nation, we will do it for everyone, we will do it for all Italians and we will do it with the aim of uniting the people,” Meloni said in a victory speech, according to the Associated Press. “Italy chose us. We will not betray it as we never have.”
The report noted that voter turnout was at a historic low of just 64%, perhaps influenced by “backroom deals” involving past governments.
Meloni, 45, ran on a platform that included a solid pro-NATO stand, including support for Ukraine against Russia’s invasion. She has also been a vocal opponent of the European Union’s recommendation to suspend 7.5 billion euros to Hungary over alleged democratic concerns in the nation.
The Italian leader has served as the chair of the European Conservative and Reformist group in the European Parliament. The group includes Spain’s conservative Vox group and Sweden Democrats, which recently won its nation’s elections with a focus on tougher criminal crackdowns and increasing limits on immigration.
The projected outcome of the election also would make Meloni the nation’s most conservative prime minister since the end of World War II. Her party will seek to form a coalition with her allies in the anti-migrant League and its leader Matteo Salvini, along with conservative former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, to form a majority government in the nation’s Parliament. This process could take several weeks.
Meloni’s rise to power comes in a post-COVID shift in which Italians face increasing gas and electric prices that have risen as high as ten times previous levels due to war in Ukraine. The election was held six months early as the nation’s unity government folded in July. Prime Minister Mario Draghi currently serves as the interim leader until the election process is completed.
While the new Italian leader has been critical of the European Union in some areas, Meloni has sought to carefully navigate the topic as her nation received the largest amount of any country for pandemic recovery that totaled 191.5 billion euros.
Some opponents have criticized Meloni’s association with the Italian Social Movement, a party formed following World War II that included some supporters of Benito Mussolini. Meloni was clear in responding to the accusations of her opponents during her campaign that sought to associate her efforts with the group’s past connections.
“The Italian Right has handed fascism over to history for decades now, unambiguously condemning the suppression of democracy and the ignominious anti-Jewish laws,” she said in a campaign video.