From a teenage activist who praised Mussolini to favourite to become Italy’s first female prime minister, Giorgia Meloni has
had quite a journey, leading her far-right party to the brink of power.
Meloni’s Brothers of Italy came top in Sunday’s elections, according to the first exit polls, while her right-wing coalition looked set to secure a majority in both houses of parliament.
Often intense and combative as she rails against the European Union, mass immigration and “LGBT lobbies”, the 45-year-old has swept up disaffected voters and built a powerful personal brand.
“I am Giorgia, I am a woman, I am a mother, I am Italian, I am Christian,” she declared at a 2019 rally in Rome, which went viral after it was remixed into a dance music track.
She advocates traditional Catholic family values but says she will maintain Italy’s abortion law, which allows terminations but permits doctors to refuse to carry them out.
However, she says she wants to “give to women who think abortion is their only choice the right to make a different choice”.
Salvini, 49, is credited with turning his once regional League party into a national force thanks to his eurosceptic, “Italians First” platform.
He has been in and out of government since the last general election in 2018, joining the populist Five Star Movement and later, Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s national unity coalition.
Salvini was just 17 when he joined the then-Northern League. After rising through the ranks, he shifted its attention onto the EU, the euro and the tens of thousands of migrants arriving on Italy’s shores yearly from north Africa.
But he has since been eclipsed by the more polished Giorgia Meloni.
The war in Ukraine has also put him in a tight spot, sparking fresh scrutiny of his ties to Russia, whose president Vladimir Putin he has long admired, even wearing T-shirts bearing Putin’s face.
Whilst Meloni looks certain to be PM, Salvini hasn’t quite given up hopes of taking the role.
A three-time prime minister who owns a media empire and Serie A football club, Berlusconi may be 85 but his political ambitions are far from over.
His right-wing Forza Italia party looked set to win just eight percent of the vote but Berlusconi joined forces with Salvini and Meloni.
Should the alliance win, as expected, billionaire Berlusconi has hopes of snapping up the second highest-ranking office in the country: president of the Senate.
A last pitch for power after his bid to become Italy’s president failed in January, the Senate job would be prestigious — and provide judicial immunity, no small matter for a man currently on trial accused of paying starlets to keep quiet about his notorious parties.
However there has also been talk of Meloni and Salvini sidelining Berlusconi if they got enough of the vote to make it possible.
In short the alliance that is set to rule Italy isn’t exactly built on the firmest ground.