Italy takes rocky first steps toward new government as parliament reopens

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AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Italy takes rocky first steps toward new government as parliament reopens
Brothers of Italy party leader Giorgia Meloni at the start of the vote for the new Senate president. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Tensions were running high on Thursday as parliament met for the first time after elections last month, with the first step in forming a government marked by rows between allies.


Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy party, which has neo-fascist roots, is poised to take power in Italy after winning historic elections on September 25th.

But Meloni can only form a government with her fractious allies, Matteo Salvini, head of the populist League, and Silvio Berlusconi, founder of right-wing Forza Italia.

The three leaders have been tussling over the formation of a cabinet that appears able to manage the major challenges Italy now faces, notably soaring inflation and an energy crisis linked to the war in Ukraine.


"We are ready, don't worry," Meloni told journalists ahead of the secret ballots, widely seen as a test of the right-wing parties' ability to cooperate.

EXPLAINED: When will Italy have a new government?

But tempers frayed as members of the Senate and lower house voted for new speakers, who will play a key role in consultations on the creation of the next government.

But the Stampa daily said the right was in "chaos", with Salvini and Berlusconi, whose parties secured nine and eight percent of the vote respectively, demanding their picks of key cabinet posts.

The secret ballots were a "first test" in an atmosphere of "high tension" between the allied leaders, the Corriere della Sera newspaper said.

Leader of far-right Fratelli d'Italia party Giorgia Meloni, votes in the election of new Parliament speaker. Her party’s candidate Ignazio La Russa won the vote. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

Whether or not Meloni, Salvini and Berlusconi's parties voted in concert "will be indicative of their compactness", it said.

The Senate, as expected, elected Ignazio La Russa as speaker. A member of Meloni's party and veteran of Italy's post-fascist movement, he is known for collecting Mussolini memorabilia.

La Russa, 75, made his political debut at 24 in the youth wing of the post-fascist MSI (Movimento Sociale Italiano) – as did soon-to-be PM Giorgia Meloni.

Meloni on Thursday hailed the election of a man she described as a "patriot", while Berlusconi and Salvini also sent congratulations.

PROFILE: Who is La Russa, the far-right veteran elected Italian Senate speaker?

But earlier, a visibly frustrated Berlusconi was seen slamming his desk in anger and swearing after a heated exchange with La Russa ahead of the vote.

The 86-year-old billionaire media mogul, re-elected nine years after being expelled from the Senate for tax fraud, was eventually persuaded to cast his ballot. The rest of his party, bar one, abstained.

In a media statement afterwards, Berlusconi said there had been "deep annoyance" in his party over vetoes expressed in recent days over candidates for ministerial appointments.

The vote for speaker of the lower house meanwhile will go into Friday.

Salvini, whose party won almost nine percent in the elections, has proposed as speaker his ally Lorenzo Fontana, a former Europe minister and a devout Catholic strongly opposed to abortion.

The government, set to be Italy's most right-wing since World War II, is expected to be in place by the end of the month.

Meloni must agree with her allies on ministerial appointments and a programme for government before Mattarella confirms the position.

New head of parliament Ignazio La Russa (L) pictured ahead of the vote on Thursday. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP


Brothers of Italy has no experience of government - it was previous unknown, winning just four percent of the vote in 2018 general elections - but Meloni has sought to reassure investors she can handle the pressure.
Meloni will almost certainly be nominated prime minister - the first woman to take the job in Italy - but who'll take other high-profile positions remains less clear.

Meloni said late on Thursday that senior League figure Giancarlo Giorgetti, currently minister for economic development, "would be an excellent economy minister" - the most important government post after prime minister as Italy grapples with sky-high energy prices weighing heavily on households and businesses.

READ ALSO: The five biggest challenges facing Italy’s new government

The opening of parliament was overseen in the Senate by Holocaust survivor Liliana Segre, the only member of her family to emerge alive from the Nazi Auschwitz concentration camp.

Segre, 92, underlined the "symbolic value" of her presence just days ahead of "the centenary of the March on Rome, which was the beginning of the fascist dictatorship".

On October 28, 1922, dictator Benito Mussolini's Blackshirts marched into the Italian capital shortly before he took power.


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Anonymous 2022/10/13 17:33
I think this Government really bothers the Local as all they can keep saying is how Meloni,s party is far right Mussolini loving neo-fascists, give it a rest this is the party Italy need , that's if you want Italy to remain Italian.

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