If Italy elects the nation's first female premier, will its women be delighted or dismayed? Should opinion polls prove on the mark, Giorgia Meloni and the far-right Brothers of Italy party she co-founded less than a decade ago will triumph in Sunday's election. Meloni might then be asked by Italy's president to try to form a viable coalition government with right-wing allies. For many female voters, it's a question of gender versus agenda, per the AP. Some worry that Meloni, who exalts motherhood, might seek to erode women's rights, including abortion access. For her supporters, what matters is her conservative "God, homeland, and family" platform, not her sex.
Brothers of Italy has roots in a neo-fascist movement that hailed the legacy of Benito Mussolini, who bestowed prizes on women who had many children. The party took around 4% of votes in the last election, in 2018, but according to some pollsters it could win nearly 25% in this one. Meloni, 45, is the only main party leader who didn't join Premier Mario Draghi's pandemic national unity government in 2021. After populist forces, including two of Meloni's campaign allies, yanked support for Draghi in July, the former European Central Bank chief's coalition collapsed, prompting an early election.
Meloni has generally refrained from pitching for women's votes simply because she's a woman. But she has snapped back at contentions that it wouldn't be a victory for women if she becomes premier. "I challenge anyone to say that that would not mean breaking the glass ceiling,'' the Italian news agency ANSA quoted her as saying. "I am a woman, so saying that you're not a woman if you say the things I say, frankly, makes me laugh." According to pollsters, Meloni attracts slightly more male than female voters. "You ooze hate and you don't represent me,'' read one typical placard held by a woman at a recent rally.
During this election campaign, Meloni has been pressed to say whether she will uphold Italy's law legalizing abortion through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy or later if a woman's health or life is endangered. She insists she'll respect the law, but wants it implemented in a way to provide help for women who decide to give birth. Meloni, who has a young child with her male companion, decries what she calls LGBTQ “lobbies," scoffs at the concept of gender fluidity, and supports Italy's ban on adoption by single people. “Traditional” families for her are the bedrock of society. (Read more Italy stories.)