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Italy votes in its most right-wing government since World War II, as Giorgia Meloni sparks fears of fascism

Italy to be led by far-right Giorgia Meloni
Brothers of Italy party wins majority, putting most right-wing government in power since WWII 03:50

Rome — Italians have voted in the country's most right-wing government since World War II. Giorgia Meloni is the leader of the Brothers of Italy party, and after the weekend vote she's set form a coalition government and become Italy's first female prime minister.

As CBS News correspondent Chris Livesay reports, given Italy's disastrous history the last time a hard-right party rose to power, it was a stunning victory for the Brothers of Italy — and more so because only a few years ago, it was just a fringe party.

For the members of the party and their supporters, Meloni represents a chance to put traditional Italians and their values first. Her opponents, however, are concerned that her far-right policies go too far.

Italy's Political Parties Await Snap Election Results
Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy) gestures during a press conference at the party electoral headquarters overnight, on September 25, 2022 in Rome, Italy. Antonio Masiello/Getty

"The fundamental problem in Italy is becoming the illegal immigration, too many immigrants," said one party supporter at an event over the weekend, arguing that an influx of foreign nationals has brought "only disorder" as immigrants have not integrated with Italian society.

"She wants, for example, to protect the traditional family, or family encompassed by mom or dad and sons," said another backer.

How does she do that, Livesay asked the Meloni voter?

By "not admitting the marriages between people from the same, the same gender," she responded.

Italy's conservative superstar fiercely opposes adoptions and surrogacy for same-sex couples — people like Alessandro Valera and his husband, who have a little girl.

"She's trying to delete us and send a message that we are the… reason why Italy doesn't have enough children. We are the reason why we have demographic problems. We are the reason why the family is not holding strong," Valera told CBS News. "And we are scared.

Meloni, a 45-year-old firebrand politician, insists she's no fascist, just a proud conservative and nationalist. She is comfortable, nevertheless, with some of the hallmarks of Italian fascism, including a motto she often utters from podiums: "Dio, patria, e famiglia!" Or in English, "God, fatherland, and family."

Exactly 100 years ago this fall, dictator Benito Mussolini, as the leader of Italy's National Fascist Party, staged his historic March on Rome. He eventually marched the country straight into two decades of dictatorship and, alongside Adolf Hitler, into World War II.

German Chancellor Adolf Hitler (2nd from right), German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop (left), Italian dictator Benito Mussolini (2nd from left) and his Minister for Foreign Affairs, Count Ciano, attended the big naval manoeuvres held in honour of Hitler in Naples Bay, under the shadow of Vesuvius, Italy on May 5, 1938. AP

Neither "Il Duce" nor his fascist party survived, but several descendants remain active in Italian politics today, including his granddaughter, Rachele Mussolini. She is a member of the Brothers of Italy.

Livesay asked her if her family name had been a hindrance or a help in the run-up to this weekend's election.

"It's been both," she said. "Certainly, when I entered politics, my last name was a springboard."

A springboard in a party whose official flag bears a flame symbol, which also appears on Benito Mussolini's tomb.

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Livesay asked one of the party supporters at the weekend rally about that symbol, after they insisted there was no connection between the Brothers of Italy, and fascism. She insisted there's no link.

But to renowned poet and Holocaust survivor Edith Bruck, it's a red flag, if there ever was one.

Meloni insists regularly that there's nothing for people in her country or across Europe to worry about, and that Italy is not about to reprise it fascist past.

But Bruck told Livesay she was "very, very worried."

She believes Italian democracy is in peril, and "that she is fascist."

To be clear, Meloni ardently rejects the fascist label. Regardless, she's poised to become Italy's first female prime minister. That another reason these elections have been historic - but one that has largely been overshadowed by her politics.

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