ROME — Giorgia Meloni smashed Italy’s highest glass ceiling when she was sworn in as the country’s first female prime minister on Saturday, but she isn’t sharing her power with many other women.
Meloni’s list of ministers contains just six women out of 24, or 25 percent, compared to her predecessor Mario Draghi’s cabinet which was 30 percent women and the 50 percent in Matteo Renzi’s 2014 government.
The women in Meloni’s cabinet occupy some of the more junior positions, such as tourism and disabilities. Beyond Meloni herself, all the major offices of state — foreign affairs, economy and interior — went to men, as well as the justice, health and infrastructure portfolios. Women were appointed to the labor and universities briefs.
The move will fuel concerns 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 through Rome and Milan in support of access to abortion, which some fear could be eroded under Meloni, who wants to boost Italy’s low birth rate and offer women 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, birthrates and equal opportunities.
Sandra Zampa, senator from the leftist Democrats, told POLITICO: “There was no reason to think Meloni would do otherwise. I have never heard Meloni speak of women’s rights. She is the daughter of a political culture and ideology that has a negative record on equal opportunity and women’s rights and she has never made a secret of it.”
Zampa criticized the nomination of Roccella, “who is an ultra conservative Catholic and for whom abortion is not a right.” She also criticized the combination of the issues of birthrate with women’s rights, “which blocks them both.”
“This government may push back the rights of women, 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 of office before the Italian president at the Quirinal presidential palace on Saturday morning, pledging to be faithful to Italy’s post-war republic and to act “in the exclusive interests of the nation.”
Meloni’s 24 ministers followed. Meloni kept nine ministries for her own party, while giving five each to the parties of partners Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi. The rest are technocrats.
The crucial post of economy and finance minister 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, leftist politicians insisted that it was improper for Berlusconi’s party to put forward the candidate for the Foreign Ministry. But in the end, Berlusconi’s deputy, Antonio Tajani, was confirmed as foreign minister and deputy prime minister. Under Tajani, former president of the European Parliament, Italy’s stance toward Europe is considered in safe hands.
Berlusconi had also wanted his party to control the Justice Ministry, which would help him protect his businesses and bring in reforms. But as Berlusoni is currently on trial for perjury and corrupting witnesses, Meloni instead appointed prosecutor Carlo Nordio.
Salvini made it clear he wanted to return to the Interior Ministry, which he led from 2018 to 2019. That would have allowed him to pull in votes by fighting immigration, but as Salvini is on trial for refusing to allow migrants aboard an NGO rescue vessel to disembark during his time as minister, Meloni appointed him as minister of infrastructure instead. Civil servant Matteo Piantedosi, who worked under Salvini at the ministry was appointed interior minister.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Saturday congratulated Meloni on becoming prime minister. “I count on and look forward to constructive cooperation with the new government,” von der Leyen said in a tweet.