Outside a rally in Ancona for the far-right Brothers of Italy party, a handful of protesters held up signs against its co-founder Giorgia Meloni.
One demonstrator held a sign that read “you ooze hate and you don’t represent me”.
Another sign read: “Meloni? Only with ham,” referring to melons that people usually pair with ham in Italian dishes.
Meloni’s party forms part of a right-wing bloc that is leading opinion polls ahead of Italy’s snap election on Sunday, 25 September.
She is also being tipped to be Italy’s first female prime minister.
But Meloni’s views on migration, reproduction rights and LGBT issues mean she is a divisive figure.
She has been a vocal supporter of what she describes as “traditional family values”, scoffed at the idea of gender fluidity and condemned what she calls LGBT “lobbies”. She is also against changing Italy’s ban on adoption by single people.
Meloni has also spoken about the need to increase her country’s declining births. While she has said during her campaign that she would uphold legislation that allows abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, she has also called the procedure a “defeat”.
“I’ve always liked Giorgia Meloni since I started to get interested in politics,” said Lucrezia Macchia, a model from Rome.
“I like what she expresses, the way she is always on the side of women.
“She has always thought about women. And she is the only woman who asserted herself for real in Italian politics, despite it not being easy.”
Oria Gargano, president of an organisation that helps victims of domestic violence, expressed concern about the possibility of Meloni’s party winning the next election.
“This a political party [Brothers of Italy ] which has always denied women’s rights,” she said. “It has been against abortion. It’s against all the LGBTQ+ community. It considers abortion a tragedy. And it wants to create a cemetery for aborted fetuses with mother’s names everywhere in Italy.”
In the country’s last general election in 2018, Meloni’s party only gained around 4% of the vote. This time it could win as much as 25%.
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