Populist brand Giorgia Meloni has been named Italy’s first female prime minister, becoming the country’s most far-right leader since Benito Mussolini.
She received the mandate to form a government from Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Friday afternoon after two days of official consultations, and is due to be sworn in at 10 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET) on Saturday.
Last month’s general election resulted in an alliance of far-right and center-right parties, led by its ultraconservative Brothers of Italy, winning enough seats in Italy’s parliament to form a government.
Meloni announced his government election in Rome’s Quirinal Palace, making Italy’s far-right party leader Matteo Salvini infrastructure minister.
Giancarlo Giorgetti, also from the League party, was appointed Minister of Economy. Antonio Tajani of the Forza Italia party was given the position of foreign affairs minister, and the role of defense minister went to Guido Crosetto, one of the founders of the Brothers of Italy party.
The new government will be formed by a coalition of Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, Salvini’s League and the Forza Italia party led by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Brothers of Italy received nine jobs, while Forza Italia and League received five jobs each.
Meloni will be sworn in during a ceremony at 10 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET) Saturday morning.
The assembly of her new cabinet revealed tensions. Controversial former leader Berlusconi made headlines this week when audio released by Italian news agency LaPresse revealed the 86-year-old talking about his “restored” relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Berlusconi’s office confirmed to CNN on Thursday that the clips were genuine – apparently recorded secretly during a meeting of his Forza Italia party in the parliamentary chamber on Tuesday.
In the audio, the billionaire and media mogul says he has “restored relations with President Putin” and goes on to boast that the Russian leader called him “the first of his five true friends”.
His comments raised eyebrows as diplomatic relations between Russia and Western leaders remain strained amid the Kremlin’s grueling military assault on Ukraine.
Berlusconi has been the subject of several corruption and bribery trials during his tumultuous political career.
Meloni was a strong supporter of Ukraine in the fight against Moscow’s invasion. Amid backlash to her coalition over Berlusconi’s comments, she reiterated her foreign policy line.
“With us in power, Italy will never be the weak link in the West. The nation of spaghetti and mandolins, which is so dear to many of our detractors, will relaunch its credibility and defend its interests,” Meloni said on her Instagram account late Wednesday.
Speaking earlier on Friday after a meeting with Mattarella and her coalition partners, Meloni said it was necessary to form the new government “as soon as possible”.
“We are ready to rule Italy,” says Meloni’s official Facebook page. “We will be able to meet the emergencies and challenges of our time with awareness and competence.”
Meloni entered Italy’s crowded political scene in 2006 and in 2012 co-founded the Brothers of Italy, a party whose agenda is rooted in Euroscepticism and anti-immigration policies.
The group’s popularity soared ahead of September’s election as Italian voters once again rejected mainstream politics and opted for a fringe figure.
She first made a name for herself as vice president of the National Alliance, an unapologetically neo-fascist group made up of supporters of Benito Mussolini. Meloni herself openly admired the dictator in her youth, but later distanced herself from his brand of fascism – despite retaining the tricolor flame symbolizing the eternal fire on his tomb in the Brothers of Italy logo.
She has pursued a staunchly conservative agenda throughout her time in politics, frequently questioning LGBT rights, abortion rights, and immigration policies.