Supporters of Lega (the League) will gather in Milan today for a rally headlined by leader Matteo Salvini ahead of Italy’s March 4 general election.
Originally formed to support Northern Italian separatism, Salvini has transformed Lega into a nationwide right-wing party as he bids for the premiership. This year, he struck “Nord” (North) from the party’s name, hoping his “Italians first” platform of euroscepticism and deporting 500,000 undocumented migrants will win his party new voters in the south.
However, Salvini’s personal ambitions may yet be curbed: polling consistently shows his party placing behind Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia within the “centre-right” electoral coalition. In that event, Berlusconi would prefer a prime minister from his own party, perhaps European Parliament President Antonio Tajani. Even if Lega placed ahead, Salvini’s extremism could prove too toxic for Forza Italia’s more moderate members to make him prime minister.
Expect Lega to increase its vote share. How big those gains are beyond its traditional northern base will indicate how much other politicians must attune themselves to Mr Salvini’s anti-migrant message.
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Nicholas is an Italian politics aficionado. Nick brings his knowledge of southern Europe to bear in The Daily Brief team, where he serves as a senior analyst and editor.