Leader of Italian far-right party 'Brothers of Italy' party Giorgia Meloni in parliament Thursday: 'We are ready, don't worry'

Rome (AFP) - Italy’s parliament met for the first time Thursday since the far-right won elections last month, a rocky first step in the process of forming a government, with tensions running high.

Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which has neo-fascist roots, secured a historic 26 percent of the vote in the September 25 polls.

But she can only form a government with her fractious allies, Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right League, and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, founder of right-wing Forza Italia.

The three leaders have been tussling over the formation of a cabinet able to manage the myriad of challenges facing the eurozone’s third-largest economy, notably soaring inflation and an energy crisis linked to the war in Ukraine.

Tempers frayed Thursday as members of the Senate and lower house voted for new speakers, who will play a key role in consultations on the creation of the next government.

“We are ready, don’t worry,” Meloni told journalists ahead of the secret ballots, widely seen as a test of the right-wing parties’ ability to cooperate.

Former premier Silvio Berlusconi (seated) in discussion with the gesticulating Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League

But a visibly frustrated Berlusconi – whose party secured eight percent of the vote – was seen slamming his desk in anger in the Senate.

The 86-year-old billionaire media mogul, re-elected nine years after being expelled from the Senate for tax fraud, was eventually persuaded to cast his ballot.

The rest of his party, bar one, abstained.

In a media statement afterwards, Berlusconi said there had been “deep annoyance” in his party over vetoes expressed in recent days over candidates for ministerial appointments.

“We hope that these vetoes will be overcome, giving way to a loyal and effective cooperation with the other forces of the majority,” he said.

- Fascist memorabilia -

The government, set to be Italy’s most right-wing since World War II, is expected to be in place by the end of the month.

The opening of parliament was overseen in the Senate by Holocaust survivor Liliana Segre, the only member of her family to emerge alive from the Nazi Auschwitz concentration camp.

Segre, 92, underlined the “symbolic value” of her presence just days ahead of “the centenary of the March on Rome, which was the beginning of the fascist dictatorship”.

The Senate elected as its speaker Ignazio La Russa, a member of Meloni's party and known for collecting Mussolini memorabilia

On October 28, 1922, dictator Benito Mussolini’s Blackshirts marched into the Italian capital shortly before he took power.

A couple of hours after Segre’s speech, the Senate elected as speaker Ignazio La Russa, a member of Meloni’s party and veteran of Italy’s post-fascist movement known for collecting Mussolini memorabilia.

Meloni hailed the former defence minister as a “patriot”, while Berlusconi and Salvini also sent congratulations.

- Economy minister -

La Russa was elected on the first ballot, but three votes for speaker of the lower house failed to produce a winner. Another round of voting was set for Friday.

Salvini, whose party won almost nine percent in the elections, has proposed as speaker his ally Lorenzo Fontana, a former Europe minister and a devout Catholic opposed to abortion.

The two speakers will take part in discussions with President Sergio Mattarella, who is expected to nominate as prime minister Meloni – the first woman to take the job in Italy.

Brothers of Italy has no experience of government – it won just four percent of the vote in 2018 general elections – but Meloni has sought to reassure investors she can handle the pressure.

Her ministerial picks are being closely watched, particularly on the economy, as debt-laden Italy grapples with sky-high inflation.

Meloni said late Thursday that senior League figure Giancarlo Giorgetti, currently minister for economic development, “would be an excellent economy minister”.

Italy has also been racing to reduce its dependence on gas from Russia, which the West has accused of deliberately shutting off supplies as part of the stand-off over the war in Ukraine.

The International Monetary Fund this week predicted the pressures would push Italy into recession next year, alongside Germany.