Populist firebrand Giorgia Meloni has been named Italy’s prime minister, becoming the country’s far-right leader since Benito Mussolini.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella received the mandate to form the government on Friday afternoon, following two days of official consultations, and will be sworn in at 10:00 a.m. (4:00 a.m. ET) on Saturday.
Last month’s general election saw an alliance of far-right and centre-right parties, led by their ultraconservative brethren in Italy, win enough seats in Italy’s parliament to form a government.
Meloni will now assemble a cabinet that will include former nationalist interior minister Matteo Salvini, while Italy’s controversial former leader Silvio Berlusconi will return to government.
The latter made headlines earlier this week when audio released by Italian news agency LaPresse revealed the 86-year-old talking about a “reestablished” 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 “reestablished relations with President Putin” and boasts that the Russian leader called him “the first of his five true friends”.
His comments raised eyebrows as diplomatic ties between Russia and Western leaders remain strained amid the Kremlin’s heavy-handed military offensive against Ukraine.
Berlusconi has faced numerous corruption and bribery trials in his troubled political career.
Meloni has been a supporter of Ukraine as it fights Moscow’s invasion. Momd The backlash against his coalition over Berlusconi’s leaked comments confirmed his foreign policy line.
“With us governing, Italy will never be a weak link in the West. The nation of spaghetti and mandolin, so dear to many of our opponents, will regain its credibility and defend its interests,” Meloni said late Wednesday on his Instagram account.
On Friday, after a meeting with Mattarella and members of his coalition, Meloni said it was necessary to form a new government “as soon as possible”.
“We are ready to govern Italy,” declared Meloni’s official Facebook page. “We will be able to face the needs and challenges of our time with awareness and skills.”
Meloni entered Italy’s popular political scene in 2006, and in 2012 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 elections, as Italian voters once again rejected mainstream politics and opted for a fringe figure.
First, he made his name as vice-president of the National Alliance, a neo-fascist group composed of supporters of Benito Mussolini. Meloni himself openly admired the dictator in his youth, but later distanced himself from his brand of fascism, despite retaining the tricolor flame that symbolizes the eternal flame of his grave in the logo of the Brothers of Italy.
Throughout his time in politics he has pursued a conservative agenda, questioning LGBT rights, abortion rights and immigration policies.