Right-wing party Brothers of Italy's leader Giorgia Meloni speaks to the media at her party's electoral headquarters in Rome, Sept 25, 2022. (GREGORIO BORGIA / AP)
ROME - Giorgia Meloni looks set to become Italy's first woman prime minister at the head of its most right-wing government since World War II after leading a conservative alliance to triumph at Sunday's election.
Near final results showed the rightist bloc should have a solid majority in both houses of parliament, potentially giving Italy a rare chance of political stability after years of fragile coalitions.
"Giorgia Meloni has won", Italy's biggest-circulation daily, Corriere della Sera, splashed on its frontpage, while the right-leaning Il Tempo ran with "It's Giorgia's turn".
If we are called on to govern this nation we will do it for all the Italians, with the aim of uniting the people and focusing on what unites us rather than what divides us
Giorgia Meloni, Leader of Brothers of Italy party
Meloni and her allies face a daunting list of challenges, including soaring energy prices, conflict in Ukraine and renewed slowdown in the eurozone's third largest economy.
"We must remember that we are not at the end point, we are at the starting point. It is from tomorrow that we must prove our worth," the 45-year-old Meloni told cheering supporters of her nationalist Brothers of Italy party early Monday morning.
Meloni plays down her party's post-fascist roots and portrays it as a mainstream group like Britain's Conservatives.
In her victory speech, Meloni struck a conciliatory tone.
"If we are called on to govern this nation we will do it for all the Italians, with the aim of uniting the people and focusing on what unites us rather than what divides us," she said. "This is a time for being responsible."
With results counted in more than 90 percent of polling stations, the Brothers of Italy led with more than 26 percent, up from just 4 percent in the last national election in 2018, as voters opted for a largely untried figure to sort out the nation's many problems.
By contrast, her main ally suffered a disastrous night, with Matteo Salvini's League picking up around 9 percent of the vote, down from more than 17 percent four years ago, and being overtaken by Meloni in all its traditional fiefdoms in the north.
The other major conservative party, Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, scored around 8 percent.
Although Meloni's alliance is forecast to hold comfortable majorities in the upper and lower houses, its members have divergent positions on several issues which might be difficult to reconcile.
Voters come in and out of a polling station within casting their vote on Sept 25, 2022 in Rome. (ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP)
They have differing views on how to deal with surging energy bills and have laid out a raft of promises, including tax cuts and pension reform, that Italy will struggle to afford.
Sarah Carlson, senior vice-president of Moody's credit ratings agency, said the next Italian government will have to manage a debt burden "that is vulnerable to negative growth, funding cost, and inflation developments".
Despite its clearcut victory, the vote was not a ringing endorsement for the conservative alliance. Turnout was just 64 percent against 74 percent four years ago -- a record low in a country that has historically had strong voter participation.
The right took full advantage of Italy's electoral law, which benefits parties that forge pre-ballot pacts. Center-left and centrist parties failed to hook up and even though they won more votes than the conservatives, they ended up with far fewer seats.
The center-left Democratic Party (PD) took some 19 percent, the left-leaning, unaligned 5-Star Movement, scored around 16 percent, while the centrist "Action" group was on just over 7 percent.
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