Some use a no-holds-barred style, such as Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s populist party Lega. Others prefer to disguise their intentions: this is the case of current Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. Either way, Italy’s far-right politicians have a strong bond with Donald Trump.
“Congratulations to Trump on the landslide Iowa caucuses victory!” Salvini tweeted last week. Lega’s leader became excited about Trump’s campaign back in spring 2016, when he took selfies with the tycoon. The latter reciprocated by wishing Salvini would become prime minister.
Even back then, the two had much in common, from the aggressive populist style to the plan to unite the sovereignist right. In 2017, when he was Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon promoted a European network of far-right organisations. In 2021, Salvini was still trying to form a single right-wing group in the European Parliament.
A few years and elections later, Italy actually has an extreme right-wing prime minister: not Salvini, but Meloni. Although she also shares a common past with the Trumpians, her present status prompts her to be less outspoken. Meloni has exhibited support for Ukraine and a pro-American political line (so far, Joe Biden’s line) in exchange for her normalisation. So until Trump returns to the White House (assuming this happens), the premier is keeping silent.
This does not mean that the channels connecting her to Trump have dried up. In November, Meloni’s Brothers of Italy colleague, MEP Andrea Di Giuseppe, met Trump. Meloni was aware of this meeting in Mar-a-Lago, and received a gift, as Trump declared her “trustable”. Italy’s PM has frequented the National Prayer Breakfast and the Conservative Political Action Conference, and has historical links to Bannon and Trump. Behind Meloni’s “Washington-washing” was an attempt to reassure international observers with Washington’s umbrella. Despite this, her nonreassuring connection remains to the Trumpian world that participated in the assault on Capitol Hill.