The New Italian Right-Wing
Matthew, it seems, is a common name among emerging political figures in Italy. In addition to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, there is Matteo Salvini, the secretary (head) of Lega Nord and a fan of both Marine Le Pen and Vladimir Putin. He is currently experiencing a windfall of success: with every day that passes, he seems to double his number of followers and he has filled a void that was left by a right wing in disarray, the orphan of a charismatic leader who is now devoid of ideas and who lacks consistency in dealing with voters.
The latest regional elections that were held in Emilia Romagna and Calabria mirror what is happening in Italy, where politics are moving at the speed of light: the Democratic Party, which is at loggerheads with the labor unions of the left, managed to win, but the low turnout worried Prime Minister Renzi, who was guilty of not being able to attract the core of their electorate in Emilia Romagna. In the past, the region was a historic cradle of communism, and today it remains fertile territory for the moderate left. Now the minority within his party, encouraged by this information, will accentuate the union controversy in search of revenge. However, the region’s low turnout was cause for Matteo Salvini to celebrate: the secretary of Lega Nord saw his party reach the unprecedented threshold of 20%, outperforming the former leading Italian center-right party, Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, which now has around 8%. It was clear to everyone that the polls were going to result in Lega Nord gaining more voters, but no one, not even Matteo Salvini, could have imagined these percentages. At the same time, a strong signal has been sent to the left, warning them that there is an antagonist, and that they might fail as the center-right majority party had before them.
Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia had less than 2% of the vote, and risks disappearing at the hands of Salvini, who has wisely stolen voters and arguments.
Forza Italia has split in two: on one side there is its 'father' Silvio Berlusconi, who remains at the helm surrounded by some loyalists, increasingly 'overshadowed' by his current girlfriend Francesca Pascale and her personal assistant, Senator Maria Rosaria Rossi. On the other side is the front led by Raffaele Fitto, head of an internal faction which would presently count on more than thirty parliamentarians between the House and Senate, who is ready to fight for the leadership of the party. This feud, however, coupled with continuous tight pacts with the left on the issue of reform, is undermining the consensus of the electorate, and Forza Italia is seen as a political movement that is increasingly in disarray, far from the reality of the citizens and paralyzed by the agreements between Berlusconi and Renzi.
Nuovo Centro Destra is guided by Angelino Alfano, Berlusconi’s former right-hand man. It struggles to obtain 4% of the vote and also perpetuates a double conflict with its voters: it supports the left in the national government, but presents itself as part of the opposition in all administrative elections, thus abandoning the will of its political base. Nuovo Centro Destra then doesn’t know how to justify itself when it is accused of being the crutch of the left-leaning government, the same government voting for quick divorce, civil unions and other items on the social liberal agenda which make them notoriously distant from right-wing voters.
So those that voted for the young MEP Matteo Salvini and his Lega Nord were unhappy with the shortcomings of the traditional center right. They represented a protest vote that is uniting people all across the 'Boot' who are sick of a legislature that refuses to reflect their interests, on issues ranging from illegal immigration to employment, from the return to the Italian currency and the exit from the euro to the motto "first the Italians". Does anyone remember the historic Lega Nord secretary, Umberto Bossi, who once called for the independence of Padania (a land which is geographically and socio-culturally ill-defined: it extends approximately between Emilia, Lombardy and Veneto)? He refused to sing Italy’s national anthem and worshiped, in a somewhat ridiculous way, the God Po (the largest river in the country).
But now, with Salvini, the music seems to have changed for Lega Nord, and soon very probably, we will see the birth of the “League of Peoples”, a new party suitable for championing the interests of all Italians which no longer looks to the north as the only part of the nation worth defending. Such a party would also be able to gain supporters in the south of the country, where the feelings of Italians are becoming more and more similar to those in the north. The battle for leadership has begun: which one of the two Matthews will win the day?