Far-right leader Giorgia Meloni takes power in Italy

New Italy premier Giorgia Meloni,
New Italian premier Giorgia Meloni takes power in Italy. Credit: AP

Far-right leader Giorgia Meloni has officially taken office in Italy, becoming the country's first ever woman to serve as premier.

The leader was sworn in Saturday as Italy's first far-right premier since the end of World War II, after her Brothers of Italy party finished first in recent elections.

Ms Meloni, 45, pledged to work to help Europe and the United States with common challenges.

She recited the oath of office before President Sergio Mattarella, who on Friday formally asked her to form a government.

Brothers of Italy, which Ms Meloni co-founded in 2012, has neo-fascist roots, and will rule in coalition with the right-wing League of Matteo Salvini and the conservative Forza Italia headed by former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, whose parties did not perform as well in the country's September election.

At the Quirinal Palace, Ms Meloni signed a pledge to be faithful to Italy's post-war republic.

As head of state, the president serves as guarantor of the Italian Constitution, drafted in the years immediately after the end of World War II and the demise of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Her new government replaces one led by Mario Draghi, a former European Central Bank chief who was appointed by Mr Mattarella in 2021 to lead a pandemic national unity coalition.

Ms Meloni refused to join that coalition, insisting voters must decide the makeup of their governments.

While campaigning, Ms Meloni insisted that national interests would prevail over European Union policies should there be conflict.

Mr Salvini's right-wing League party has at times leaned eurosceptic.

Giorgia Meloni leaves after her swearing in at Quirinal presidential palace, on Saturday. Credit: AP

An admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Salvini has questioned the wisdom of EU sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, arguing that they risk hurting Italian business.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen congratulated Meloni, noting she was the first woman to hold the premiership.

“I count on and look forward to constructive cooperation with the new government on the challenges we face together,” the EU chief said.

Meloni tweeted back that that she was “eager and ready to work with you to strengthen EU resilience towards our common challenges.”

One immediate challenge for Meloni will be ensuring that Italy stays solidly aligned with other major nations in the West in helping Ukraine fight off the invading Russians.

In the days before she became premier, Meloni resorted to an ultimatum to her other main coalition partner, Mr Berlusconi, over his professed sympathy for Putin and dismissive comments about Ukraine's president.

Mr Berlusconi, in remarks to Forza Italia lawmakers, appeared to justify the Russian invasion in February to install what he called a “decent” government in the Ukrainian capital.

Ms Meloni made clear she demands unwavering support for Ukraine.

In his congratulatory tweet for the new Italian premier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made no reference to Mr Berlusconi criticising him.

“I look forward to continued fruitful cooperation to ensure peace and prosperity in Ukraine, Italy and the world!” Mr Zelenskyy wrote.

Ms Meloni replied that Italy would “always be on the side of the brave people of Ukraine that is fighting for its freedom and for a rightful peace."

US President Joe Biden, in congratulating Meloni, praised Italy as a “vital NATO ally and close partner as our nations together address shared global challenges.”

“As leaders in the G-7, I look forward to continuing to advance our support for Ukraine, hold Russia accountable for its aggression, ensure respect for human rights and democratic values, and build sustainable economic growth,” Biden said.

In a statement thanking Mr Biden, Ms Meloni said she was eager to work together “for freedom and international security.”

“The United States and Italy are united by a deep friendship and by the transatlantic partnership, founded on common values,” she said, referring to NATO.

Giorgia Meloni's partner Andrea Giambruno, their daughter Ginevra, and the premier's sister, Arianna Meloni. Credit: AP

Europe's political right, eager to dominate on the continent, exulted in Meloni coming to power.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, referring to Ms Meloni and Mr Salvini, wrote on Twitter: “Throughout Europe, patriots are coming to power and with them, this Europe of nations.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban also hailed the birth of the new Italian government as a “big day for the European Right.”

In any unusual touch for a country used to male-dominated politics and power, Ms Meloni’s partner Andrea Giambruno, a journalist in Mr Berlusconi’s media empire, attended Saturday's swearing-in ceremony along with the couple's 6-year-old daughter, Ginevra.

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