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Giorgia Meloni claims victory to become Italy’s most far-right prime minister since Mussolini

(CNN)Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni has claimed victory in a general election that seems set to install her as Italy’s first female prime minister, leading the most far-right government since the fascist era of Benito Mussolini.

Addressing the media and supporters in the early hours of Monday morning, Meloni said it was “a night of pride for many and a night of redemption.”

“It’s a victory I want to dedicate to everyone who is no longer with us and wanted this night,” she said. “Starting tomorrow we have to show our value … Italians chose us, and we will not betray it, as we never have,” she said.

Preliminary results put an alliance of far-right parties, led by Meloni’s ultraconservative Brothers of Italy party, on track to win at least 44% of the vote, according to the Italian Interior Ministry.

With 63% of votes counted, the Brothers of Italy party had won at least 26%, with coalition partners the League, led by Matteo Salvini, taking around 9% and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia scoring over 8%. Final results are expected later Monday, but it’s expected to take weeks for a new government to be formed.

Meloni entered Italy’s crowded political scene in 2006 and co-founded the Brothers of Italy in 2012, a party whose agenda is rooted in Euroskepticism and anti-immigration policies.

In the last election in 2018, the party won just 4.5% of the vote, but its popularity has soared in recent years, underscoring Italy’s longstanding rejection of mainstream politics, seen most recently with the country’s support of anti-establishment parties such as the Five Star Movement and Salvini’s League.

Celebrating the early results on Sunday evening, Salvini said on Twitter, “Center-right in clear advantage both in the House and in the Senate! It will be a long night, but already now I want to say THANK YOU.”

Meloni differs from coalition partner leaders on the issue of Ukraine. Whereas Berlusconi and Salvini have both said they would like to review sanctions against Russia because of their impact on the Italian economy, Meloni has been steadfast in her support for defending Ukraine.

A 45-year-old mother from Rome, Meloni is deeply conservative, openly anti-LBGT, and has threatened to place same sex unions, which were legalized in Italy in 2016, under review. She has also called abortion a “tragedy,” raising fears for the future of women’s rights in the country.

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