ITALY’S Giorgia Meloni has declared victory as the stunned country ushers in its most far-right leader since Benito Mussolini.
Meloni’s party, which has neo-fascist roots, will lead a new coalition and install the most right-wing government since World War Two.
The Brothers of Italy won 26 per cent in Sunday’s election, according to partial results.
And they are set to take office in a coalition with the far-right League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party.
A straight-speaking Italian raised by a single mum in a working-class neighbourhood, Meloni rails against what she calls “LGBT lobbies”, “woke ideology” and “the violence of Islam”.
And she has vowed to put a stop to the tens of thousands of migrants who arrive on Italy’s shores each year.
The centre-left Democratic Party have warned Meloni is a danger to democracy – and would pose a serious risk to hard-won rights such as abortion.
On the economy, Meloni’s coalition has pledged to cut taxes while increasing social spending, regardless of the cost.
In a victory speech, she said: “If we are called to govern this nation, we will do it for everyone, we will do it for all Italians and we will do it with the aim of uniting the people.
“Italy chose us. We will not betray (the country) as we never have.”
Her success represents a massive change in Italy and for the EU – just weeks after the far-right also outperformed in elections in Sweden.
Meloni, who campaigned on a motto of “God, country and family”, is set to become Italy’s first female prime minister – but the process of forming a new government could take weeks.
At a time of soaring inflation, a looming energy crisis and the raging war in Ukraine, Meloni tried to reassure those worried about her lack of experience and radical past.
Meloni said voters had sent a “clear message” of support for her party to lead their right-wing coalition to power.
She tweeted: “Today you can participate in writing history.”
A few hours earlier she shared a clip on Tiktok holding a pair of melons – a wordplay on her last name – which she captioned “I said it all.”
Figures show voting turnout was lower than in the 2018 elections.
Her coalition allies, Matteo Salvini’s far-right League and former premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, lagged behind her in the polls.
But together they are forecast to win around 44 per cent – enough to secure a majority in both houses of parliament.
Brothers of Italy pocketed just four per cent of the vote in 2018 and has never been in power.
Meloni’s own experience of government is limited to a ministerial post in the 2008 Berlusconi government – but she has tried to prove she’s up to the challenge.
She has moderated her views over the years, abandoning her calls for Italy to leave the EU’s single currency.
Her coalition also wants to renegotiate the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund.
Despite her euroscepticism, Meloni supports the EU’s sanctions against Russia over Ukraine – although her allies are another matter.
Berlusconi, the billionaire former premier who has long been friends with Vladimir Putin, faced an outcry this week after suggesting the Russian president was “pushed” into war by his entourage.
The last opinion polls two weeks before election day suggested one in four voters backed Meloni – but around 20 per cent of voters were undecided.
The next government is unlikely to take office before the second half of October.