“I think Italy is ready, more than it thinks,” Giorgia Meloni told a British journalist two years ago who asked her if she could become prime minister. The words of the radical right-wing politician turned out to be prophetic. Polls show that her radical right-wing party Fratelli d‘Italia (Brothers of Italy”) will almost certainly be the largest in the elections next Sunday.
It puts Meloni in pole position for the premiership. This is probably the first time that Italy will have a woman at the head of the government. In a country that is still largely governed by men, that would be a huge upheaval. But because Meloni is also extremely conservative, not all women are happy with her rise.
‘Women have to fight harder‘
Joanna Dinolfo, aged fifty, is out: she will vote for Meloni on Sunday. “Over the past few years, political choices have been made that have not helped our country,” she says. “We need to make room for a party that is not in the government, but has been in opposition for a long time.”
fact that Meloni is a woman is definitely a factor for Dinolfo. For years, she herself worked her way to get her current job, in the male-dominated Italian Football Association. “We women have to fight to end up in the same places as men. But when you’re there, it shows that you‘re stronger and better prepared than a man.”
She admires Meloni’s persistence, who is often attacked by political opponents for her conservative views. “If you have to endure so many attacks, you must be very determined to become Prime Minister.”
Who is Giorgia Meloni? This could be Italy‘s first female prime minister:
As enthusiastic as Dinolfo is, so afraid are many left-wing progressive women. Laura Palazzini, a 41-year-old architect, has been waiting for a female prime minister all her life. “But this is really not who we need,” she sighs. “Meloni is a woman who works against women. She’s not on our side.”
She thinks Meloni‘s position on abortion is the worst. In Italy, abortion is allowed in the first thirteen weeks of pregnancy. The politician does not want to reverse that, but wants to “give women the right not to abort”. She wants to support women who do want to have a child, but still interrupt their pregnancy because, for example, they cannot afford the upbringing.
“I don’t think the declining birth rate can be solved by letting migrants in, as left-wing parties think,” she said at a campaign meeting in Milan. “I want our families to make children. I don‘t want women to have to choose between motherhood and work.”
It is not a change in the law, but ultimately it means making abortion more difficult, Palazzini fears. “In practice, it is already very inaccessible, because in some regions up to eighty percent of doctors refuse to have an abortion. You can terminate a pregnancy for a thousand reasons, but it’s never an easy decision. The fact that you are hampered, for example because the government requires you to fill out a questionnaire, is humiliating. Women have to make their own decisions about their bodies.”
“Years back in time”
Palazzini is also concerned about LGBTQ rights. Meloni believes that homosexual couples are legally allowed to live together, but getting married or adopting a child together goes too far for her. “Meloni‘s ideals catapult us back in time,” Palazinni fears.
Meloni voter Joanna Dinolfo believes nothing about that. “It is inconceivable that Meloni reverses laws. Of course, she expresses herself about certain values, and I’m the first to ask questions about them. Most of the time I don‘t have the answer right away either. But ultimately, you have to vote for someone.”
According to her, the idea that Meloni would make abortion more difficult in the long run has been taken out of context. “Raising a child in Italy is really not easy these days. When you are alone, there is sometimes nothing you can do but interrupt your pregnancy. The option to choose then seems like a good thing to me.”
Like many Fratelli d’Italia voters, Dinolfo is therefore less conservative than the party itself. Her voice is primarily a protest vote against the political establishment. “In a democratic country, I think we should embrace that variety,” she thinks. “If we then return to the left, so be it. But I hope that good choices will be made in the meantime.”