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Residents in Mussolini’s birthplace ‘want change’ as outsider rides high on wave of Italian discontent

Maria Teresa stitches and cuts with speed and precision for her community.

She has been a local seamstress for 50 years. Her shop is located in Predappio in northern Italy.

She tells me it is hard work, and she earns little. Now she worries that no one will follow her lead because the Italian economy is slowing down and is about to get worse.

“We must help young people learn job skills.”

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She says that the country needs to change and that it will do so this weekend. With Giorgia Meloni being elected as the first woman prime minister of the country, it is likely that this general election will usher in a new age.

Image: Maria Teresa

Maria Teresa’s eyes lighten as she says, “Maybe Meloni is the right person.”

“At least she is a woman, and she will govern us. Let’s wait and see, but I would love for something to be different.

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“Why can’t women measure up to men?” This job has been my life for over 50 years. It’s a rewarding one that requires so much of me.


The place where Mussolini was conceived

Predappio may not be a large town but it is well-known for being the birthplace of Benito Mussolini and where his remains are now.

Maria Teresa’s souvenir shop will sell you T-shirts, plates, and beer mugs with fascist slogans. You can also buy a swastika down the street.

Nearly 100 years have passed since Mussolini’s March on Rome saw him rise to power. While he has been long disregarded by the majority of the world, there are still a few who feel nostalgic for the days when Italy was a major global power.

Image by Giorgia Maloni. Pic: AP

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Meloni was a young woman who praised Mussolini for being a strong leader. Her views have changed over the years and she now denounces Mussolini and fascism.

Nevertheless, there are still those who are concerned about her connections to political extremism. Fratelli D’Italia, her party, still uses the flaming torch logo, which was inherited from fascists after the Second World War. Populist rhetoric appeals mostly to people who are nostalgic for the past.


Reigning high on a wave discontent

Meloni is not a fascist, it is true. Meloni is a politician riding high on discontent with the Italian political system – an outsider now smashing down doors to government.

Image: Silvia casadei

We meet Silvia Casadei on the streets, who is out walking her dogs. “Changes are always there and they can both be positive or negative. Meloni has a chance, but I don’t know if she will win. I wish so.

Her first task is to address the rising cost of living and energy shortages. She has been vocal in her dislike for illegal immigration. Matteo Salvini (leader of Lega Nord) will be part of her coalition government. He has long claimed that illegal immigration weakens Italy.


“I want justice”

We meet Charity Oriachi, originally Nigerian but now living in Italy, just a few hours away. Alika Ogorchukwu was her husband and was brutally murdered while the rest of the world watched.

She says that her apartment is now too quiet without her husband singing and playing music. “It’s horrible, terrible. “How could you film such a thing?” She asks. She asks, “I want justice and I want to go to the court.”

Image: Charity Oriakhi

Although a man is being held in custody for the murder of his wife, the indifference displayed by observers raises the question about Italy’s attitudes towards migrants.

Charity claims she will remain in Italy because of the support from the Nigerian community she lives near.


“We need to change”

Salvini claims that migrants “use up hospital bed space” but Meloni, who I spoke with, said that migrants were “selling drugs or criminality to prostitution”. According to polling, Italians are more likely to condemn migration than to overestimate the number migrants in their country.

While migration will be a factor in this election, it is not the most important.

One woman said that everything is more expensive than it used to be, while sitting on a step in Predappio’s main square. We need to change.

This is what Meloni believes in – the desire to change and the appeal of the outsider.

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