Wed, Jun 06, 2018 - Page 9 News List

In Italy’s prosperous north, firm backing for the League’s Salvini

By Angela Giuffrida  /  The Observer, PONTIDA, Italy

However, they are to share the role of deputy prime minister, with Di Maio, a 31-year-old former waiter, also serving as minister of labor.

The new coalition is expected to receive a vote of confidence this week.

However, while League supporters are happy their hero has made it into government, they have reservations about the union with Five Star.

“The League is totally different from M5S,” said Giulio Sapelli, an economics professor who taught Salvini at the University of Milan. “You never know what they [M5S] are thinking or going to do. For example, this calling for Mattarella to be impeached was crazy.”

Sapelli, a euroskeptic who was among those proposed as a potential prime minister for the coalition, also pointed to the League’s history in government and experience in administering two of Italy’s richest regions — Lombardy and Veneto.

Meanwhile, haphazard management has seen Five Star lose support in the two biggest cities it runs, Rome and Turin.

“It’s very hard to know how long [this government] will last,” Sapelli said. “The League is the only classic ‘rank and file’ party left; M5S is a movement with a weird leadership.”

Marco Ghezzi, the League’s candidate for mayor in upcoming local elections in Calolziocorte, a town close to Pontida, would have preferred the party to have stuck with its center-right coalition partners: former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the smaller far-right Brothers of Italy.

The group won the biggest share of the vote in the March 4 elections, but fell 3 percent shy of the majority required to govern.

Berlusconi stepped aside to allow the League to forge a deal with Five Star, which sees the 81-year-old media magnate as a symbol of the corruption it has long railed against, although the alliance still campaigns at regional and local level.

“The problem with M5S is that they don’t have a ‘structured party.’ Most of it is based online,” Ghezzi said.

Ghezzi is expected to win Sunday’s vote in Calolziocorte by a landslide, ousting a center-left Democratic Party leadership, which in itself is an anomaly in a region dominated by the League.

At a mayoral platform event on Thursday last week, the prime concern of the town’s residents was security. Its population of 15,000 includes about 1,500 foreigners.

Most are integrated, but in the past few years the area has seen an uptick in the arrival of illegal immigrants, Ghezzi said.

“They hang around the station at night, sleep in abandoned houses and by the river,” he said. “It’s a scandal for the people here, who mostly live in mountain villages and cherish their values and tradition.”

Echoing Salvini, Ghezzi said that refugees should be vetted before they arrive.

Salvini is notoriously quick to speak out when crimes are committed by foreigners, while remaining silent over incidents involving white-skinned Italians.

He expressed horror on Facebook at the alleged gang rape of an Italian woman by Bengali men in Rome, but failed to mention the arrests of five Italian hotel workers a few days earlier over the alleged rape of a British woman in the holiday town of Sorrento.

Ghezzi claims the reactions are different, because the proportion of crimes committed by immigrants outweighs that by Italians.

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