ROME — Giorgia Meloni shattered Italy’s tallest glass ceiling when she was sworn in as the country’s first female prime minister on Saturday, but she doesn’t share her power with many other women.
Meloni’s list of ministers contains only six women out of 24, or 25%, compared to the cabinet of his predecessor Mario Draghi which had 30% women and the 50% of Matteo Renzi’s government in 2014.
The women in Meloni’s cabinet hold some of the most menial positions, such as tourism and disabilities. Beyond Meloni herself, all major state offices – foreign affairs, economy and interior – went to men, along with the justice, health and infrastructure portfolios. Women have been named to labor and university records.
The move will fuel fears that Italian women will not benefit from Meloni’s government.
Women’s groups in Italy fear their rights will be curtailed under a Meloni government. After the election, thousands marched in Rome and Milan in support of access to abortion, which some fear will be eroded under Meloni, who wants to boost Italy’s low birth rate and provide women with alternatives to abortion.
Among Meloni’s most controversial appointees is ultra-conservative Catholic Eugenia Maria Roccella as family minister. Meloni also changed the name of the ministry to Family, Birth and Equal Opportunity.
Sandra Zampa, a senator for the leftist Democrats, told POLITICO: “There was no reason to think Meloni would do otherwise. I never heard Meloni talk about women’s rights. She is the daughter of a political culture and an ideology that have a negative record on equal opportunities and women’s rights and she has never made a secret of it.
Zampa criticized the appointment of Roccella, “who is an ultra-conservative Catholic and for whom abortion is not a right”. She also criticized the combination of birth problems with women’s rights, “which blocks them both”.
“This government can push back women’s rights, but I am convinced that Italian women will not allow it,” Zampa said.
Meloni and Roccella’s party, Brothers of Italy, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Meloni, 45, recited the ritual oath before the Italian president at the Quirinal presidential palace on Saturday morning, pledging to be loyal to the post-war Italian republic and to act “in the exclusive interest of the nation”. .
Meloni’s 24 ministers followed. Meloni retained nine ministries for his own party, while giving five each to the parties of partners Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi. The others are technocrats.
The crucial post of Minister of Economy and Finance goes to Giancarlo Giorgetti, who was Minister of Economic Development under Draghi.
After Berlusconi was recorded proclaiming his friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week, left-leaning politicians insisted it was inappropriate for Berlusconi’s party to field the candidate for foreign ministry. But eventually, Berlusconi’s deputy, Antonio Tajani, was confirmed as foreign minister and deputy prime minister. Under Tajani, a former president of the European Parliament, Italy’s position towards Europe is considered to be in good hands.
Berlusconi had also wanted his party to control the Justice Ministry, which would help him protect his businesses and bring about reforms. But since Berlusoni is currently on trial for perjury and witness bribery, Meloni appointed prosecutor Carlo Nordio instead.
Salvini has made it clear he wants to return to the Interior Ministry, which he led from 2018 to 2019. This would have allowed him to attract votes by fighting immigration, but as Salvini is on trial for refusing to allow migrants aboard an NGO rescue ship to disembark during his tenure as minister, Meloni appointed him Minister of Infrastructure instead. Civil servant Matteo Piantedosi, who worked under Salvini in the ministry, was appointed interior minister.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Saturday congratulated Meloni on his appointment as prime minister. “I count on constructive cooperation with the new government and look forward to it,” von der Leyen said in a Tweeter.
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