What to Know About Giorgia Meloni, the Divisive Politician Set to Become Italy's First Female Prime Minister

Giorgia Meloni is seen during a press conference
Giorgia Meloni is seen during a press conference

Valeria Ferraro/SOPA Images/Getty Giorgia Meloni

Giorgia Meloni, poised to become Italy's first female prime minister, is making history — and igniting controversy — after a shocking election that catapulted the far-right firebrand to the upper echelons of political power in the country.

Italy has not officially declared a winner in its election, though the Associated Press reports that Meloni, 45, has already declared victory as exit polls show her to be leading.

Meloni would be the first far-right figure to take power in Italy since World War II, and her public remarks and political leanings are raising eyebrows around the globe.

Among the biggest questions concerning how Meloni might govern are her feelings toward Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin, who is currently overseeing a brutal invasion of Ukraine.

Newsweek reports that, in a memoir published last year, Meloni defended Russia, describing it as "part of our European system of values." Her tone has shifted amid the invasion, and she assured Ukraine it could count on her support after its leader, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, congratulated her on her apparent victory.

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Those on the left have slammed Meloni for a recent speech littered with anti-LGBT rhetoric.

"Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology, yes to the culture of life, no to the abyss of death," Meloni said in a speech delivered to supporters of Spain's rightist Vox party in June, as NBC News reports.

NBC News also reports that Meloni has shot down speculation that she might roll back LGBT or abortion-rights legislation, but others in her party haven't been as clear.

Federico Mollicone, who serves as culture spokesman for the Brothers of Italy party, recently criticized the children's show Peppa Pig for depicting a pair of same-sex parents, asserting that, "in Italy homosexual couples are not legal, are not allowed." (The country legalized same-sex civil unions in 2016.)

American conservatives, meanwhile, have held Meloni up as something of a political icon, with Republicans including Ted Cruz lauding her for a 2019 speech in which she promises to "defend God, country and family."

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But by others, Meloni — who heads up the Brothers of Italy party — is being met with skepticism.

While the White House has publicly pledged to work with the Italian government with its new leader at the helm, outlets including Politico have reported that, privately, Meloni's election is being met with deep worry in Washington, D.C.

Much of that worry stems from the fascist roots of Meloni's political party and her hardline views on immigration and LGBT rights. Meloni herself has claimed that her party has evolved past fascism — saying recently there are no "nostalgic fascists, racists or antisemites in the Brothers of Italy DNA" — but not everyone is convinced.

As professor Luciano Cheles told The Guardian, fascist imagery has been seen in posters, brochures and anthems of Brothers of Italy, and Meloni's rhetoric sometimes echoes that of Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, who notoriously founded the National Fascist Party.

"She's cunning," Cheles told The Guardian, adding: "Obviously she adapts her appearance and attitude to the audience."