Politics a family affair for Italy’s Giorgia Meloni

Giorgia Meloni gives a speech on the Arenile di Bagnoli beach in Naples.  AFP

Giorgia Meloni gives a speech on the Arenile di Bagnoli beach in Naples. AFP

A like-minded sister, a brother-in-law running for government and a campaign mother – politics is a family affair for Italian far-right leader Giorgia Meloni, even if her partner votes left. The 45-year-old is on course to become the first woman to become Italy’s prime minister after her party, the Brothers of Italy, which has neo-fascist roots, triumphed in Sunday’s general election. The self-proclaimed “Christian mother” has placed defense of traditional family values ​​at the heart of her campaign, and her own family is key to both her backstory and her support network.

Meloni is very close to her older sister Arianna, who like her was involved in politics from a young age and whom Meloni described as “the most important person in my life” before the birth of their daughter Ginevra in 2016. Arianna is also part of the Brothers of Italy family, married to Francesco Lollobrigida, the party’s parliamentary group leader in the lower chamber of deputies, and a tipped ministerial post in a government led by Meloni.

Speaking to La Stampa daily after the election, Arianna described her sister as “very brave and very determined” and a “perfectionist”. She dismissed suggestions that Meloni – who fought under the motto “God, Country and Family” – would change Italy’s abortion laws, saying “she stands with women and with acquired rights.” The sisters grew up in Rome’s working-class Garbatella district from her mother Anna Paratore, who is very interested in politics herself. In an interview with French television in 1996, in which the then-teenage activist Meloni praised dictator Benito Mussolini, Paratore was portrayed as a long-time activist on the post-fascist right.

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After the election, her mother – a novelist who enthusiastically supported her daughter’s career – dismissed concerns about Meloni’s radical past as “nonsense”. Paratore added that she would welcome the end of citizen income, an anti-poverty measure criticized for encouraging unemployment that Meloni has pledged to end.

“I’m happy about her success, but I don’t know if I would have wished her all that,” she told the Corriere della Sera newspaper, referring to the challenges ahead. Paratore raised her daughters alone after their father left when Meloni was very young and moved to Spain’s Canary Islands. In her best-selling autobiography, released last year, Meloni describes how her mother almost had an abortion while pregnant with her, only to change her mind at the last minute.

Meloni also wrote about her father’s absence, saying it leaves “perhaps a deeper wound than a father dying … because when he goes, you have to deal with his spirit.” Meloni holds up her own experience of parenthood as part of her appeal, declaring in a 2019 speech that went viral, “I’m Giorgia, I’m a woman, I’m a mother, I’m Italian, I’m Christian.”

The day after Sunday’s vote, she posted a note on Instagram from six-year-old Ginevra, saying: “Dear mom, I’m so happy you won. I love you so much!” Ginevra’s father is TV journalist Andrea Giambruno, 41, who Meloni met during an interview. She recounted in her book how he took away the remains of a banana she ate during a commercial break before returning went on the air.

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“Andrea is intelligent and confident. He’s very good at his job and that makes him one of the few men in the world who doesn’t like having a successful woman next to them,” she wrote. Giambruno – who, according to the press report, would become Italy’s “first gentleman” if Meloni becomes prime minister – also votes for the left, she has admitted in interviews.

The couple isn’t married, but Meloni has little time for those who claim her marital situation conflicts with her political emphasis on the importance of children having a mother and father. “I’ve heard that nonsense a lot,” she wrote in her book. “If you are not married, you cannot defend the natural family on the basis of marriage. A bit like saying when you’re young you can’t take care of the problems of older people.”

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Meloni and her allies began what will likely take weeks to form a new government, with crises looming on several fronts. Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party, which triumphed in Sunday’s elections, has no experience of power but needs to assemble a cross-party team to deal with skyrocketing inflation and energy prices, and relations with a wary Europe.

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The 45-year-old hopes to become Italy’s first woman leader but needs her allies, Matteo Salvini’s far-right Lega party and ex-Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, for a majority in parliament.

The division of top posts – notably business, foreign affairs, defense and interior ministries – will always be political, but now more than ever “must reflect subject areas,” Stampa noted daily. In the past, it took between four and twelve weeks for a new government to take office.

But the first deadline for action is fast approaching, as debt-ridden Italy has until October 15 to submit its draft plan for next year’s budget to Brussels.

President Sergio Mattarella will not begin deliberations on who will lead the new government until the Senate and Chamber presidents have been elected by Parliament, which meets on October 13. Families and businesses grapple with huge bills exacerbated by the Ukraine war, and sorting out the budget will be “like climbing Everest without oxygen tanks for the new cabinet,” the daily Corriere della Sera said. During the election campaign, Meloni tried to reassure investors that despite her radical past, she will be a safe pair of hands.

But the interest rate on 10-year Italian bonds rose Tuesday morning to its highest level since October 2013. And the difference between German and Italian interest rates, the closely watched spread, rose above 250 points for the first time since the lows of the coronavirus pandemic in spring 2020 .