After several days of anger, the Italian Meloni and Berlusconi meet

ROME (AP) – Italy’s presumptive next prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi sought to put days of bitterness behind them Monday by meeting privately and presenting a united front in an effort to form Italy’s first far-right government since World War II .

Officials from Meloni’s Italian brothers and Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party issued a joint statement saying the meeting, held at Meloni’s headquarters in Rome, was conducted in a spirit of “unity of intent and maximum cordiality and cooperation”.

The reading was intended to stem a string of negative headlines about perceived fractures in the center-right coalition before formal consultations on forming a new Italian government begin later this week.

The Brothers of Italy, which has its roots in the neo-fascist movement, won 26% of the vote in Italy’s September 25 general election, the most of any party. She is set to lead a right-wing government together with the right-wing Forza Italia, which won 8%, and Matteo Salvini’s right-wing League party, which won 9%.

Meloni, a former militant of the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement, is expected to be Italy’s first female prime minister.

Tensions flared last week over the division of cabinet positions, most spectacularly when Berlusconi scrawled a list of derogatory adjectives about Meloni on a stationary in plain sight of photographers covering Thursday’s election for the Senate president: “Practice, bossy, arrogant, insulting.”

After pictures of the notes went viral, Meloni shot back that Berlusconi had forgotten one: “That I’m not capable of blackmailing myself.”

It was a reference to Berlusconi’s apparent power play that failed. A majority of Forza Italia senators did not vote for Meloni’s candidate for Senate President, Ignazio La Russo, depriving him of an outright victory. That stunt backfired, however, when La Russa sailed through and won the first ballot anyway with apparent opposition votes. The outcome suggested that Meloni had outwitted Berlusconi and thwarted his show of force as he sought to install a loyalist in her future cabinet.

The tensions revealed the obvious differences in policy between the two, but also underscored something like a generational shift in power within the Italian right. Berlusconi, the 86-year-old three-time prime minister, has seen Forza Italia’s star fade in recent years and has been forced to cede the political spotlight and leadership to the next generation of Meloni, 45, who was youth minister in Berlusconi’s last 2008-2011 government.

“The minority votes for La Russa show that the opponents are not only divided,” analyst Massimo Franco wrote in Corriere della Sera this weekend. “They clearly show that Forza Italia’s power to influence the leader of the Brothers of Italy has reached striking limits.”

Franco said that the big question is whether the coalition can survive the tensions in the long term.

After Monday’s meeting, both sides vowed to present a united front during consultations with President Sergio Mattarella, who is expected to ask Meloni to try to form a government. The two parties said they, along with their League allies, are already working to give Italy a strong, cohesive and high-profile government as soon as possible.

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