Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni marked her first anniversary in power by taking a “personal day” off after splitting from her scandal-hit long-term partner.
Speaking via video link to a conference held by her Brothers in Italy party on Sunday, Meloni said: “I’m sorry to not be with you in person, but I too, am human.”
The 46-year-old had confirmed on Friday that she was ending her ten-year relationship with television presenter Andrea Giambruno, with whom she has a seven-year-old daughter. The break-up, said The Times, presents a “challenge” for Meloni, whose right-wing government has promoted “the importance of traditional family values”.
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The scandal surrounding the split also brings a sour end to what has, on the whole, been a successful first year in office for Italy’s first female PM.
A ‘no-nonsense’ dumpingMeloni’s “no-nonsense attitude is part of her electoral appeal”, said The Telegraph’s Rome correspondent Nick Squires, and she was characteristically “resolute, almost surgical, in her decision to dump her partner”.
The Italian leader announced the split on social media after a satirical current affairs show, “Striscia la Notizia”, aired a recording last Thursday showing Giambruno using foul language, touching his groin and appearing to make advances to a female colleague. In another clip, he can be heard propositioning a colleague for a threesome, suggesting she could work with him if they had sex, and apparently admitting to an affair on the set of his TV show, “Diario del Giorno” (“Daily Agenda”).
Meloni had previously defended Giambruno after he said on the show in August that young women who go out at night and get drunk were leaving themselves vulnerable to rape.
But she called time on the relationship after the latest scandal overshadowed her diplomatic trips to Cairo and Israel last week, writing that “our paths have diverged for some time, and the time has come to acknowledge it”.
Emerging as a ‘strong character’Although deeply embarrassing, the way that Meloni has handled her personal dramas could benefit her and even “increase her popularity”, Francesco Galietti, founder of political think-tank Policy Sonar, told The Telegraph.
Alessandra Ghisleri, head of polling firm Euromedia Research, agreed that Meloni’s rapid response to the scandal would prove to be a vote winner.
“To announce the separation the moment her dignity and credibility were violated has shown Italians she has a strong character,” Ghisleri told The Times.
How has she done as PM?Many Western sceptics had low expectations after Meloni won power a year ago as head of Italy’s most right-wing government since Benito Mussolini. But she has quelled “foreign concerns of possible extremism”, said Reuters, “forging good ties with allies by adopting a strongly pro-Western, EU-friendly stance and pledging staunch support to Ukraine in its war with Russia”.
Meloni has also so far “avoided the domestic political chaos that dogged so many of her predecessors”, added the news agency. With a divided opposition helping her tighten her grip on power and keep her party at the top of the polls with nearly 30% of voter support, her coalition looks well placed to “cruise past” the 14-month average postwar term life for Italian governments.
One area in which Meloni has had less success is illegal migration, about which she recently told press that “the results are not yet as hoped”. Despite pressure from her coalition partners, she is no longer calling for a naval blockade to prevent boats leaving North Africa, even though arrivals on Italy’s coasts have surged to more than 140,000 so far in 2023 – nearly double the total in the same period last year.
But while Meloni is also facing weak economic growth and high interest on the country’s huge debt, she “has morphed into one of Europe’s most powerful politicians”, said The Guardian’s Rome correspondent Angela Giuffrida, and many voters appear impressed.
“It used to be difficult to find an Italian who admitted to liking Giorgia Meloni,” Giuffrida wrote. A year on, however, “that veil of shame has lifted”.