Italy's new far-right leader Giorgia Meloni and her ties to American politics

LONDON — Giorgia Meloni, the head of Italy’s far-right nationalist political group, declared victory on Tuesday after her coalition, which includes her party, Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy), won a clear majority.

The center-right coalition is made up of three parties: Fratelli d’Italia; the far-right League, led by Matteo Salvini; and Forza Italia, headed by Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister who was convicted of tax fraud and named in a 2011 U.S. State Department human-trafficking report.

Italy is on course to create the most right-wing government since World War II, with the final results of the election expected by Monday. Meloni, set to become Italy’s first female prime minister, vowed that her party would “govern for everyone.”

Giorgia Meloni smiles while holding a placard reading in Italian: Thank you, Italy.
Giorgia Meloni, leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy, shows a placard reading in Italian "Thank you Italy" at her party's electoral headquarters in Rome early on Monday. (Gregorio Borgia/AP)

“Italians have sent a clear message in favor of a right-wing government led by Brothers of Italy,” Meloni told reporters.

Matteo Salvini, Silvio Berlusconi, Giorgia Meloni and Maurizio Lupi stand together with held hands raised above their heads, smiling as if in victory.
From left, Matteo Salvini, Silvio Berlusconi, Meloni and Noi Con l'Italia's Maurizio Lupi at the center-right coalition's closing rally in Rome on Sept. 22. (Gregorio Borgia/AP)

Following her triumph, several Republicans praised her win. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, hailed the election results as “spectacular,” while Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., tweeted that he looked “forward to working with her” to “advance our shared interests.” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., also lauded Meloni and congratulated her on her victory, and Fox News host Tucker Carlson said her victory was a “revolution.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken failed to send a celebratory message to Italy’s new leader but rather said the U.S. was “eager to work with Italy’s government on our shared goals,” which he said included “respecting human rights.”

Meloni has had long-standing ties with key members of U.S. politics. Since 2018, Steve Bannon, a White House adviser under President Donald Trump, has supported her in her rise to political stardom. Four years ago, Fratelli d’Italia held only 4% of the vote in Italy — far lower than the 41% to 45% won in this past election.

Attending one of Bannon’s right-wing rallies in Europe in 2018, Meloni told the Daily Beast that she saw him as an “ally,” adding, “We share ideals. We need to hear what he says.”

Steve Bannon and Giorgia Meloni stand together outside in artificial light near cameras.
Steve Bannon and Meloni in Rome in 2018. (Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters)

Benjamin Harnwell, the international editor of Bannon’s “War Room” podcast, previously told Yahoo News that he remembers Bannon calling Meloni “a rock star” after their first meeting. “This woman is going to transform Italy,” Harnwell recalls Bannon saying at the time.

More recently, in an interview with the British newspaper the Times, Bannon compared Meloni to Britain’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who was known for breaking unions and privatizing state-owned enterprises. “Like Thatcher, she will face opposition — but like Thatcher, she will win. And like Thatcher, history will prove her right,” Bannon said.

And it’s not just with Bannon that Meloni’s message resonates. Earlier this year, she delivered a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference. She told the crowd that “everything” conservatives had stood for was under attack and the only way to be a rebel was to “preserve what we are” and to be “conservative.”

Lawrence Rosenthal, chair of the Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies at the University of California, told Al Jazeera that American conservatives are celebrating Meloni’s victory because “it’s an occasion to celebrate the ‘triumph of our side’ — from their point of view — internationally.”

According to Cas Mudde, an international affairs professor at the University of Georgia, Meloni has “invested a lot of effort into creating connections and respectability within the U.S.-dominated ‘national conservatism’ and Christian fundamentalist networks.”