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Matteo Salvini
Milan

Matteo Salvini gets ready for Italian municipal elections after massive party victory

The popular leader of Italy’s eurosceptic Northern League party, Matteo Salvini, has hit out at the EU’s policy of towing boats from Libya to Italy and aiding human trafficking, after his resounding election victory as party chief.

Published: June 1, 2017, 9:41 am

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    In France and the Netherlands, eurosceptic parties have lost their recent political challenges, and in Germany the AfD suffered a setback due to recent leadership battles, but in Italy Salvini fights on.

    “One can no longer speak about immigration but about an organised invasion, funded and planned by Brussels with the complicity of Rome,” he said.

    Salvini added that he believed the ruling Democratic Party were “an accomplice to this invasion along with the left-wing cooperatives and the pseudo-aid associations,” referring to recentreports that charities and NGOs are working together with people smugglers to bring more and more Africans into Europe.

    He added that while he was waiting for the election, amid a shakeup in the Italian electoral system, so that “Italy can defend its borders again”, the urgent matter of migranst flooding Italy needed attention. “I won’t wait for Strasbourg, nor Brussels or Merkel,” he vowed.

    On 11 June, the country will elect more than 1000 municipality representatives, including large cities such as Verona, Genoa and Palermo. The elections are a test run for 2018 parliamentary elections in Italy.

    Geert Wilders, Marine Le Pen, Frauke Petry have all experienced setbacks, but not Matteo Salvini. The Lega Nord surveys at 15 percent, and it has never had so much approval in its more than thirty-year history. What does Salvini do right?

    Every year, hundreds of thousands of refugees arrive on Italy’s shores, and Salvini talks about the dangers that his country is facing. He speaks mostly of the “sacro territorio”, the holy territory: “The 18th century was the century of the empires, the 19th century was the century of the national states, the 21st century will be the century of the municipalities, the provinces, the territories!”

    The Lega Nord was founded in the early eighties to separate the rich north of Italy from the poor south, but nothing came of it. The party, with the former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, entered into government coalitions, lost power, lost orientation, and finally the elections. When Salvini became the party chairman in December 2008, it polled at only 3 percent.

    Since then, Salvini, born in Milan in 1973, has been trying to turn the Lega Nord into a national force from a regional party. He appears in Palermo, Catania, Frosinone, as he ventures into the deepest south of Italy.

    Salvini’s criticism of the globalized present, is filled with existential features. In his speech at the party congress in Parma, he described the situation of modern man as follows: “There is a great machine: you are born, you work, you produce, you consume, you die, the machine does not even give you time to think.” The genius of Salvini is that he thus confronts this discomfort of a meaningless, consumerist world with the image of intact territory, the Italy of small, well-organised communities and cities as it once was.

    Salvini won the primary elections of the right-wing Northern League party with 82.7 percent of votes last month, confirming his position of party leader and federal secretary.

    Gianni Fava, Salvini’s main challenger who has links to the party’s former leader Umberto Bossi and is a supporter of a more federalist strategy, had minor political weight in the party.

    After Salvini won the leadership of the Northern League, the new federal secretary announced his next moves: “Send Renzi, Alfano, Boschi and Boldrini packing, block the invasion of illegal immigration underway, relaunch work and hope in Italy.”

    Meanwhile Bossi, the historic leader of the party who voted for Fava, has said that Salvini’s victory “is the end of the League” because he “misrepresents” the movement’s pro-North vocation.

    Salvini, was earlier able to count on a heavyweight supporter – now an adversary – in the figure of Roberto Maroni, who is today the governor of the Lombardy region.

    In order to compete with Matteo Renzi and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement leader Beppe Grillo, Salvini will have to nurture the alliance with Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.

    Meanwhile in the Sicilian capital of Palermo prosecutors are warning that a new alliance between the mafia and Nigerian criminal gangs moving in from Libya could herald a new era of organised crime.

    “Even the Sicilian mafia has to deal with the wave of migration from Africa,” said Leonardo Agueci, Palermo’s deputy chief prosecutor. And the Nigerian gangs are getting stronger and more ruthless, the Guardian reported.

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