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Giorgia Meloni to be sworn in as Italy’s first woman prime minister

Far-right leader Giorgia Meloni is to become the first woman to lead Italy as the eurozone’s third-largest economy wrestles with a severe energy crisis because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Meloni, whose party won the largest share of the vote in elections last month, succeeds Mario Draghi, whose coalition collapsed in July. The chief of Brothers of Italy, a party with post-fascist roots, will be formally sworn in as Italy’s prime minister during a ceremony on Saturday.

“We’re ready to give this nation a government as quickly as possible,” Meloni said after a meeting on Friday morning with president Sergio Mattarella, who later tasked her to form a cabinet. She cited the “urgent problems” confronting Italy.

On Friday, she unveiled a government backed by her coalition partners Matteo Salvini’s League and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.

League member Giancarlo Giorgetti will serve as finance minister, while Antonio Tajani, Forza Italia’s second-in-command and a European parliament veteran, will be foreign minister. Brothers of Italy co-founder Guido Crosetto, a close adviser to Meloni and a defence industry expert, will serve as defence minister.

Meloni’s appointment follows a week of bitter rancour within her rightwing alliance over the allocation of ministerial posts, with tensions coming out in the open with Berlusconi. In written notes caught by a photographer, the 86-year-old former prime minister described Meloni as “someone you can’t get along with”.

On Friday, the three party leaders sought to present a united front as they attended consultations with Mattarella. The coalition “unanimously” proposed that she lead the government, Meloni said.

Meloni entered politics in 1992 as a teenage activist with the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement, founded by loyalists of dictator Benito Mussolini. In later years, she gained notoriety for fiery anti-Brussels speeches and her attacks on “global financial speculators” accused of seeking to turn Italians into “slaves”.

But as the prospect of winning power drew nearer, she tried to soften her image and reassure Italian voters, EU capitals and international investors.

Maintaining unity with Berlusconi and Salvini will be a challenge. Last week, Berlusconi was caught clutching a scribbled note describing Meloni as “opinionated, domineering, arrogant and offensive”. This week, he caused more controversy after tape recordings appeared to show that he had received gifts from Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin and that he blamed Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the war.

Meloni said that support for Europe and Nato would be a “cornerstone” of her government.

She declared that anyone who did not agree with her pro-Europe, pro-Nato orientation could “not be part of the government, even if that means not making the government”.

Additional reporting by Giuliana Ricozzi in Rome

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