This native of Ticino will become Giorgia Meloni’s main opponent in Italy

Elly Schlein has been elected the new head of the social democratic PD. The 37-year-old leftist thus becomes the most important opponent of the 46-year-old Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who is far to the right.

One of the first to congratulate Elly Schlein on her election was Giorgia Meloni herself. From the government palace in Rome, Meloni sent her congratulations to the new head of the PD and added, somewhat maliciously: “I hope that the election of a young woman to head the party will help the left to move forward and not always backwards look.”

The opposition, and the PD in particular, is indeed in a pitiful state: the party has split into several factions, divided, paralyzed. So far, Meloni has had to fear the machos in her own government – ​​Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini – more than the opposition.

epa10480419 Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni addresses a joint press conference with her Polish counterpart Morawiecki after their meeting in Warsaw, Poland, 20 February 2023. EPA/Rafal Guz POLAN ...

Gets a new opponent with Elly Schlein: Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. image: keystone

This could change now. “The election showed that the left still exists in Italy and that it is alive,” Schlein said after her victory in the base poll was certain. The turnout was surprisingly high: nationwide, over a million party members and sympathizers went to the polling stations.


Schlein, who only rejoined the PD a few months ago, defeated her opponent, veteran party soldier and ex-Communist Stefano Bonaccini, with 54 to 46 percent of the vote. The big cities of Rome, Milan, Turin, Naples and Palermo were decisive for her victory, where she scored the most points. “The result is a clear mandate to realign the party from scratch,” said the new party leader.

The “Meloni Effect” also helped her win

Schlein, who was born in Lugano, grew up there, went to school and also has a Swiss passport, calls for ecological restructuring, equality, minimum wage, wealth tax and solidarity with migrants; She is feminist, openly bisexual and appeals – in addition to women – above all to a progressive, urban audience. At the same time, she is likely to owe her victory to a “Meloni effect”: after the right-wing in Italy brought a woman to the head of government for the first time in Italian history last fall, the PD base also wanted to entrust the leadership of the party to a woman .


And the left-wing voters wanted to oppose the far-right prime minister with a far-left politicizing party leader, an “anti-Meloni”. Under Elly Schlein, the PD will make a noticeable shift to the left compared to its predecessor, ex-Prime Minister Enrico Letta.

Italy's left is becoming more left under Elly Schlein.

Italy’s left is becoming more left under Elly Schlein. image: keystone

In addition to repositioning the party, Schlein’s most important task will be to reunite and morally uplift the opposition. To this end, even before her election, she had sent out signals of detente towards the Five Star Protest Movement. Before the parliamentary elections on September 25, there was a break between the PD and the “Grillini”, which made the election victory of Meloni and her right-wing coalition possible in the first place.


With Elly Schlein, a 37-year-old opposition leader will now challenge a 46-year-old head of government – a constellation that hardly anyone would have thought possible in Italian politics, which until recently was almost exclusively dominated by older men. Woman against woman, far left against far right.

Giorgia Meloni had recommended himself to the election campaign with these words: “I’m Giorgia, I’m a woman, I’m a mother, I’m Christian.” Elly Schlein countered in her own way: “I’m a woman, I love a woman, I’m not a mother, but that doesn’t mean I’m less of a woman.” Schlein vs. Meloni: This promises to be an interesting duel. (

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