For forty years Anna Maria Tartora has sold ripe tomatoes and fresh cucumbers to loyal customers in the markets of Rome.
He never imagined that the little girl who once stood in line to buy curry there, holding her grandfather’s hand, would now become the next prime minister of Italy.
“He was a great man and loved his granddaughter very much.”
Anna Maria beamed with pride as that little girl, Jorja Meloni, led her team to first place in the polls.
“He grew up eating my beans. He ate well and grew well.”
The market is located in an area called Garbatellate. The area, south of Rome, is home to the working class and has traditionally been a bastion of the left.
The area is an incongruous place to grow up for a politician on his way to becoming Italy’s first far-right prime minister since Benito Mussolini.
After the results of Italy’s election are confirmed, the country’s President Sergio Mattarella will consult with party leaders to determine who can lead a stable government.
Jorja Meloni would argue she is at the forefront of this responsibility.
“He doesn’t represent our area. The place is historically left-wing,” said Marta, a shopper, as she walked past the vegetable shop with a stroller.
His grandmother, Luciana, was telling me that she dreaded the prospect of George Meloni becoming prime minister. “I am profoundly anti-fascist,” he added.
“If he succeeds, it will be a very ugly time.”
George Meloni vehemently rejects the label of fascist.
Speaking in English, Spanish and French in a recent video, he insisted that fascist ideology is history.
But this history is part of the problem of a country that was not on par with Germany in exterminating Nazism after World War I. This allowed fascist groups to flourish there.
Founded in 2000, the Brothers of Italy have political roots with the Italian social movement MSI. Originating from Mussolini’s fascism.
The party continued to use the post-war far-right logo. It contains three colored flames. Many compared it to the fire burning in Mussolini’s tomb.
Gianluca Passarelli, professor of political science at Rome’s Sapienza University, said, “Jorja Melni doesn’t want to shed this symbol. Because he cannot escape this identity of politics; it is his youth.”
“His party is not fascist,” he explained. “Fascism is about gaining power and destroying everything. He won’t do that, he can’t. But his party has elements associated with the neo-fascist movement. He’s always played out of it somehow.”
Her youth anchored on the far-right fringes and growing up in the ranks of the common people have portrayed her as a woman of the people. Which is the main feature of his image.
Left-wing father and right-wing mother
Born in Rome, Giorgio Meloni was only one year old when his father Francesco left the family for the Canary Islands.
Francesco was left-wing and his mother Anna was right-wing. Many believe that he chose his path to politics out of revenge for his father’s absence.
His family moved to Garbatella near Nanabari. There, at the age of 15, he joined the Youth Front of the neo-fascist party Italian Social Movement. He later became the president of the student wing of the party’s successor, the National Alliance.
Marco Marsilio was holding a meeting at Garbatella’s MSI office. Just then, in 1992, George Meloni knocked on his door. Marsilio, ten years his senior, became his close friend and political ally. Marsilio is today the president of the Abruzzo region.
“She was a light-skinned girl. But always very serious and determined,” he says.
“He was a standout at student meetings. He would stop anyone who tried to take the microphone from him.”
Over the years Marsilio and Meloni spent family holidays, social events and debate days together. Marsilio watched him grow in confidence.
“She used to cover up her insecurities,” said Mr. Marsilio.
“But perhaps that was one of his strengths. He would read more to learn more about a problem before tackling it.”
In 2008, at the age of 31, Giorgio Meloni became Italy’s youngest minister. He was appointed Silvio Berlusconi’s Minister of Youth and Sports.
After forming his own party in 2018, he got only four percent of the votes in the 2018 elections.
Now the only major party outside Mario Draghi’s National Unity government, the Brothers of Italy are forecast to win between 22 and 26 percent of the vote. His right-wing alliance with Silvio Berlusconi and former interior minister Matteo Salvini’s League party are on course for a majority in parliament.
Miz Meloni, however, is trying to reassure Italy’s Western allies. As such, Draghi has strongly supported the government’s approach to Ukraine, but his hard-line conservative social policies have worried many.
At a recent rally of Spain’s far-right Vox party, he shouted “yes to the natural law family and no to the LGBT lobby.”
He called for a naval blockade to stop migrant boats from Libya.
“Maloni is not a danger to democracy, but a danger to the European Union,” said Professor Passarelli.
He placed Jorja Meloni in the ranks of the nationalist leaders of Hungary and France
“He is on the same side as Marine Le Pen or Viktor Orbán and he wants ‘one nation Europe’. Italy could become Putin’s Trojan horse. He will work to weaken Europe.
Miz Meloni used her female identity to become Italy’s first female prime minister. But Professor Passerelli believes he is doing it in a masculine political way.
“The Italian family is dominated by the mother. Who is the masculine figure. Who controls the kitchen. Melanie uses this image brilliantly. Which is directly at the center of our lives.”
He would represent a radical political shift for his allies, given Italy’s long economic stagnation and society of elder politics.
Marco Marsilio said, “I feel great. It’s like a father carrying a daughter.”
“We wouldn’t have founded the team if we didn’t think he had that potential.”
What does he plan to say to her when the festivities begin at his party headquarters, when the bottles of liquor are opened?
Marco Marsilio’s reply, “Go ahead.
“This is what we all wanted. Now face it.”
(Source: BBC Bangla)