“The Italians first!”: Salvini mobilizes his followers in the stronghold of the league

“The Italians first!”: Salvini mobilizes his followers in the stronghold of the league

“Italians first!”: A week before Italy’s general election, Matteo Salvini, who is trailing behind Giorgia Meloni in the polls, punched through his constituents’ recall during a major popular gathering of national right-wingers, sovereignists and Eurosceptics on Sunday.

The hilltop town of Pontida near Bergamo (north) was invaded by a flurry of flags bearing the coats of arms of the wealthy northern provinces of Veneto, Lombardy, Piedmont, Friuli, Trentino and Alto Adige.

There also floated the colors of Calabria, Sicily and the General Union (UGL), founded in 1996 from the ashes of the neo-fascist CISNAL union.

“I also see flags of Sicily and Tuscany. It’s not regions against others, it’s Italy hoping, dreaming and looking ahead,” said Matteo Salvini.

According to the league, there were 100,000, many came in buses specially chartered by the party to hear “Il Capitano”. Beer vendors stood next to stands selling T-shirts and gadgets that said “Salvini” or “Italians First.”

The annual high mass of the right-wing extremist movement has taken place in Pontida since 1990, because that is where the Lombard League, an alliance of northern cities against Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa, was formed in 1167. The meeting had been suspended since 2020 due to the pandemic.

Salvini hailed the Swedes’ vote, which “sent home the left” by voting for the right, allied with the extreme right. In the United States, “it would be different if it had been Trump instead of Biden, but the vote is sacred, Americans voted, it’s democracy,” he also said.

He recalled the League’s six priorities: curbing the rise in energy prices and developing civilian nuclear power, promoting regional autonomy, introducing a flat tax, guaranteeing retirement at 41, stopping migrants from landing in the Mediterranean, and reforming the judiciary.

He proposed the abolition of the public audiovisual levy, defended “woman’s ultimate choice” in the face of abortion, but argued in the name of “traditional values” that “a father is a father and a mother is a mother”.

– ‘The Lion in the Arena’ –

The league is part of the coalition formed with Fratelli d’Italia (FdI), a post-fascist party led by Giorgia Meloni, and Forza Italia (right) led by Silvio Berlusconi, the favorite in September 25 general elections .

“The Italians first!”: Salvini mobilizes his followers in the stronghold of the league

Supporters of Matteo Salvini’s party during a meeting on September 18, 2022 in Pontida (North) (AFP – Piero CRUCIATTI)

FdI are credited with 24.4%, Liga 12.1% and Forza Italia 7.8%, according to the latest polls released in early September before their ban in the two weeks leading up to an election.

For the League, this would be a significant drop compared to the 2018 general election, where the party won more than 18%, and especially compared to the Europeans of 2019, where it triumphed with 34.3% of the vote.

Salvini is paying the price for the league’s involvement in successive governments since 2018, while FdI has remained in opposition.

Some sympathizers “didn’t forgive him and left” at Meloni, Anna Valdotta, an activist who came to Pontida, told AFP on Sunday. The 67-year-old pensioner remains loyal to Salvini, who compares her to “a lion descending into the arena”.

For Stefano, a 27-year-old postman, “Meloni has a strong lead” and “it’s not that Salvini lost votes, it’s that Meloni won”.

Spurred on by Salvini, the Lega, an ally of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in France, has dampened diatribes against Rome and the North-South opposition.

For the former Lombard secessionist, the opponent is initially the Brussels-Paris-Berlin axis and its financial and migration diktat. He castigates this “Europe that is at war with Italian peasants and fishermen” and takes its orders from the countries of northern Europe at the expense of the countries of the south. With shouts of “Matteo, Matteo!” he was loudly cheered on.

Matteo Salvini in the crowd during a meeting in Pontida (North) on September 18, 2022 (AFP – Piero CRUCIATTI)

Not far from Pontida, in Monza, the leader of the Democratic Party (PD), Enrico Letta, also held a meeting.

“Today, Pontida is a province of Hungary,” Letta joked, referring to the political closeness of the Italian right-wing extremists to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The PD would only come second on September 26 with 21% of the vote and has no support to speak of on either the left or the centre.

Reference: www.challenges.fr

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