On Sunday, frustrated voters turned out in force throughout Italy to vote for the Northern League Party, an anti-immigrant right wing group of break off politicians spearheaded by Matteo Salvini. The vote decided who would lead the right coalition in Italy on election day this fall and the surprise victory gives Salvini the right to name the next Prime Minister candidate for Italy which will likely be himself. On the campaign trail, The Northern League promised to throw out illegals that have made Italy home under lax immigration policies over the past half decade. The Northern League’s leader, Matteo Salvini, has been a constant thorn in Silvio Berlusconi’s side and is a well known commodity in the right wing politics of Italy where he is often seen as a brasher, cruder, and harder edged version of Berlusconi.
The Northern League captured a much larger share of the vote on Sunday than analysts expected as Salvini railed agains the involvement of Italy in the European Union. Similar to the shockwaves experienced across Europe when Nigel Farage led an exodus of The United Kingdom from centralized european politics, so too was Salvini able to capture the nationalist sentiment of a frustrated Italian public.
Salvini is most noted for his fiery rhetoric that has called for the razing of Roma camps and an impassioned defending of the fascist policies of WWII dictator Benito Mussolini. The Northern League leader has attacked NATO and mocked the failures of european centralized economic and cultural planning. Salvini’s party, who garnered 16% of the vote, managed to more than quadruple their electoral showing from 2013 when they received 4%.
In a speech to the public after his preliminary victory, Salvini had the following to say:
It’s an extraordinary victory, which fills us with pride, joy and responsibility. I see it as a vote for the future; the Italians have rewarded the future!
Although his anti-immigrant rhetoric seems in lock step with Donald Trump and Hungary’s Viktor Orban, the 44 year old Salvini is actually a self proclaimed communist from Milan. Mr. Salvini has run an electric campaign that has seen him travel far and wide across Italy with a message of Italian nationalism that is reaching a public with many fears and doubts about the future of their country.
Italy’s economy has stagnated in recent years and has yet to recover from the collapse of 2008. An admirer of Putin, he has nurtured close ties with the Russian government and called for an easing of punishment and regulations on the North Asian empire. In his speeches, Salvini has praised open and free markets while calling for lower taxes in hopes of making Italy a more attractive nation for businesses:
An Italy that collects lower taxes, that has well-defined times for the court proceedings, and that has less bureaucracy is good news that reassures the markets
Citing a lack of consistency on ideas, Salvini dismissed working with the 5 Star Movement, another outsider political group, that garnered the largest single party vote share on Sunday outside the right coalition. Salvini is seen as a hard line protectionist who has pointed to imported Tunisian oil and Moroccan oranges as proof that Italy must make strong and fast decisions to protect their national economy.
Salvini has been at the center of some controversy as he has not shied away from what some see as a lingering fascist foothold throughout the country. He has floated working with CasaPound, a neo-fascist group, if they are capable of attaining a 3% vote threshold. While the global media suggests he is a dangerous enemy of freedom, many throughout Italy speak about Salvini in a different way. They see The Northern League as representing the dignity and honor of the Italian people who have been sold a bill of globalist goods over the course of two economically plodding decades.
Sunday’s vote signals the likely end of the aging Berlusconi’s career.