Giorgia Meloni makes history

Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni broke the “crystal ceiling” of Palazzo Chigi becoming the first woman Prime Minister of the Italian Republic, appointed by the President Sergio Mattarella to form the 67th Italian government – center-right as a resut of the September 25 polls.

At 45, like Amintore Fanfani (Prime Minister in 1954, at 45 years and 11 months), Giorgia Meloni is not the youngest: the sceptre is firmly in the hands of Matteo Renzi, head of the government in 2014 at 39 years old .

Italy was among nine EU countries to never have had a woman at its helm. But, with the farewell of Britain’s Liz Truss, Meloni becomes the ninth premier woman in Europe – a milestone crossed after a long political path. Roman, born in 1977, the new Prime Minister grew up in the popular Garbatella district in Rome together with her mother Anna (“the person to whom I owe everything”) and her sister Arianna, and having to deal with a childhood marked by abandonment of the father. Today, at 45, she succees Mario Draghi as leader of the first Italian party and president of the European Conservatives.

The political commitment of the new prime minister has distant roots. In 1992, at the age of 15, she joined the Youth Front, the youth organization of the Movimento Sociale Italiano-Destra Nazionale party and founded the student coordination ‘Gli Antenati’, which participated in the protestsagainst the public education reform project promoted by Minister Rosa Russo Iervolino.

In 1996 she became the national head of ‘Student Action’, the student movement of the National Alliance, representing this movement in the Forum of student associations established by the Ministry of Education.

In 1998, at the age of only 21, she was elected councillor of the Province of Rome for the National Alliance, remaining in office until 2002. In 2004, she was elected president of Youth Action during the Viterbo national congress and two years later, in 2006, at the age of 29, she was elected to the Chamber of Deputies on the list of the National Alliance, and from 2006 to 2008 she held the position of Vice President of the Chamber of Deputies. In 2008, Meloni was elected to the Chamber of Deputies on the Popolo della Libertà list, in the Lazio district.

From May 2008 to November 2011, she held the position of Minister of Youth of the fourth Berlusconi government. From 2008 to 2010 she was a member of the VI Finance Commission of the Chamber of Deputies.

Since 2010 he has been a member of the XI Labour Commission of the Chamber of Deputies.

From 2009 to 2012 he was president of Giovane Italia, the Popolo della Libertà youth movement.

In December 2012, Meloni left Popolo della Libertà to found, together with Guido Crosetto and Ignazio La Russa, the Fratelli d’Italia Party, which in 2013 garnered 1.9% of the votes and she was re-elected to the Chamber of Deputies covering then the role of group leader in Montecitorio.

On March 8, 2014, after running for the FdI primary, she was elected national president (later reconfirmed in 2017). In 2016 she is a candidate for mayor of Rome, and in the administrative elections she gets 20.64% of the votes failing to pass the first round. At the 2018 elections, Fdi presents itself within the centre-right coalition, resulting in the third party of the line-up after Forza Italia and Lega, obtaining 4.3% of the votes both in the Chamber and in the Senate.

Since then, the party led by Meloni has been characterised by constant growth. At the 2019 European Parliament elections, Fratelli d’Italia reached 6.4%. In the same year, they also obtained agood result in the regional ones succeeding in having its first president of the Region in Abruzzo (Marco Marsilio) elected. In September 2020 he also won the leadership of the Marche Region.

Recent history is marked by opposition to the Conte I, Conte II and Draghi governments, up to the historic success certified by the outcome of the vote on last September 25. In the elections Fdi hit the best result in its history: it is the first party in both the House and the Senate with 26%, allowing the centre-right coalition to obtain an absolute majority in Parliament – and Meloni to become the new tenant of Palazzo Chigi.

Until now Italy was among the nine EU member states that had never had a woman as prime minister. The eight that maintain this status are currently: Spain, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Malta, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Cyprus.

More than 40 years ago, the first EU country to have a prime minister was Portugal: Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo, appointed head of government in 1979, the first but also the last to head a Portuguese government.

Five EU countries, on the other hand, have had more than one woman at the head of their executive. France, with Edith Cresson in 1991 and now Élisabeth Borne; Poland, with Hanna Suchocka, also in 1991, Ewa Kopacz, in 2014, Beata Szydło in 2015; Denmark, with Helle Thorning-Schmidt in 2011 and now Mette Frederiksen; Finland, with Anneli Jäätteenmäki in 2003, Mari Kiviniemi in 2010 and now Sanna Marin; Lithuania, with Kazimira Danutė Prunskienė in 1990 and now Ingrida Šimonytė.

The EU countries that have had only one woman at the helm of their government are: Belgium, with Sophie Wilmès in 2019; Germany, with Angela Merkel from 2005 to 2021; Austria, with Brigitte Bierlein in 2019; Slovakia, with Iveta Radičová in 2010; Slovenia, with Alenka Bratušek in 2013; Croatia, with Jadranka Kosor in 2009; Greece, with Vassiliki Thanou-Christophilou in 2015; Bulgaria, with Reneta Indzhova in 1994; Romania, with Viorica Dăncilă in 2018; Sweden, with Magdalena Andersson in 2021; Estonia, with Kaja Kallas in 2021; Latvia, with Laimdota Straujuma in 2014.

With the farewell of Liz Truss, women in Europe at the head of a government had dropped to eight. With Giorgia Meloni they return to nine. The two most recent premieres in Europe are Elisabeth Borne, in office in France since May 16, 2022, and Mary Elizabeth Truss known as Liz, prime minister of the United Kingdom from September 6 to October 21 2022, for just 45 days. Serbia is also on the list, with Ana Brnabić, politician and economist, prime minister since 29 June 2017; Ingrida Šimonytė, economist, Prime Minister of Lithuania since December 2020. Social Democrat Magdalena Andersson has been at the helm of the Swedish government since 30 November 2021 and Kaja Kallas of Estonia since 26 January 2021. In Iceland since 30 November 2017 there is the leader of the Greens Katrín Jakobsdóttir; Mette Frederiksen, Prime Minister of Denmark since June 27, 2019, and Sanna Marin, elected in Finland on December 10, 2019.

It was necessary to wait until 1976, 30 years after the first elections that saw the Italians vote, to have a female minister in Italy: Tina Anselmi was chosen by Giulio Andreotti as Minister of Labour. After Tina Anselmi, another great female figure in the history of Italian politics was Nilde Iotti, the first woman president of the Chamber in 1979. She remained there for three terms until 1992. From 2013 to 2018 it would be the turn of Montecitorio di Laura Boldrini, when Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati arrived to hold the office in the legislature that has just ended with the early dissolution of the Chambers last July.

In 76 years of the Republic’s history since De Gasperi, the pink quotas in the last Draghi government was 8 out of 23, five out of eight “without portfolio” and three of the fifteen principal ministers. Of the 40 undersecretaries, about half were women, at least in this right representation of an Italian population divided almost exactly in half between men and women with a slight female prevalence (almost 31 million out of 60 overall, 51.29% of the population).

This is a TGCom24 article, first published in Italian

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