Meloni takes over as Italian PM, urges fractious allies to unite
Meloni and her 24 ministers were sworn in on Saturday before President Sergio Mattarella, and she declared her intention to get “straight to work”.
On Sunday, Meloni joined outgoing prime minister Draghi, a former European Central Bank chief who took over in February 2021, for a formal handover of power.
They held private talks for almost 90 minutes before a smiling Draghi symbolically handed to Meloni a small bell used in Cabinet debates, which she, grinning, rang a few times for the television cameras.
As a teenage activist, Meloni praised late dictator Benito Mussolini, but insists fascism is history and has transformed her party from a marginal group of radicals to a national force.
Brothers of Italy won just 4 per cent of the vote in 2018 elections, but secured a 26 per cent in the Sep 25 poll.
During 18 months as the only real opposition to Draghi’s national unity government, Meloni swept up disillusioned voters, presenting herself as a straight-talking defender of traditional values and Italy’s national interests.
But her ministerial experience is limited to three years as youth minister under Berlusconi’s 2008 to 2011 government, while her party has never held power.
In an attempt to reassure investors that Italy’s debt-laden economy was safe in her hands, Meloni has appointed Giancarlo Giorgetti as economy minister.
Giorgetti, who served as minister of economic development under Draghi, is considered one of the more moderate, pro-Europe members of Salvini’s League.
Draghi’s energy minister, Roberto Cingolani, will stay on as government adviser as Italy tries to wean itself off Russian gas, reports said.
Meloni’s party no longer wants Italy to leave the EU’s single currency but remains strongly Eurosceptic, as is the League, which won 9 per cent in the elections.
However, she named committed European Antonio Tajani, a former president of the European Parliament who co-founded Forza Italia with Berlusconi, as foreign minister and deputy prime minister.
Salvini will serve as deputy prime minister and minister of infrastructure and transport.
Like Berlusconi, Salvini is a long-time fan of Putin and has criticised Western sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
On Saturday, Meloni again affirmed her desire to work with NATO, which she described as “more than a military alliance: A bulwark of common values we’ll never stop standing for”.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and United States President Joe Biden sent their congratulations, as did Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The tensions with her allies reinforce doubts as to how long she can keep her coalition together, in a country that has had almost 70 governments since 1946.
Pope Francis noted the start of the new government in his weekly Angelus Sunday, offering his prayers for “unity and peace in Italy”.