Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi met Monday with premier-to-be Giorgia Meloni at her party’s headquarters in Rome in a sign of appeasement after an open clash between the two raised questions over the unity of their rightist coalition and its ability to form a solid government.
In a joint statement issued after a one-hour meeting, the two uneasy allies pledged to take part together along with the other members of the coalition in consultations that Italian President Sergio Mattarella will hold with all political forces later this week.
Mattarella is expected to hold quick talks with the parties before handing the mandate to create a new Cabinet to Meloni, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party, who emerged as the clear winner from September’s general elections.
Tensions with Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party — one of the two junior allies in the right-wing coalition along with Matteo Salvini’s League party – emerged during the election of the new Senate speaker last week, when Meloni’s close ally Ignazio La Russa was elected despite Forza Italia’s abstention.
During the parliamentary session, Berlusconi — a media tycoon and three-time premier, who is now heading a weakened party and holding tough negotiations with the incoming prime minister — defined Meloni as “patronizing” and “bossy” in a written note that was made public by Italian TV and newspapers, dramatically exposing the first cracks within the coalition.
Monday’s meeting was an attempt to show that peace had returned between the two leaders and that they are eager to work together to address the heavy economic and social challenges that Italy is facing.
“The meeting took place in an atmosphere of unity and utmost cordiality and collaboration,” the joint statement said.
“Brothers of Italy and Forza Italia are working to give Italy a strong, cohesive and supportive government as soon as possible,” it added, noting that Meloni and Berlusconi addressed together the most urgent economic issues, starting with soaring energy prices.
Political observers noted, however, that the differences between Meloni, Berlusconi and Salvini remain pretty sharp, especially in terms of economic policies and relationships with European partners.
Those tensions will likely resurface as the three allies meet to finalize the list of ministers that Meloni has to hand to President Mattarella shortly after receiving the mandate, a key step in the creation of the new government that is expected by early next week.