Salvini faces barrier to early election

Salvini faces barrier to early election

Italy might not face an early general election as two former opponents looked poised to join forces to defeat a far-right no-confidence bid.

The populist leader of the anti-migrant Lega, Matteo Salvini, has pulled out of his coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) last week, hoping for a no-confidence vote to topple the government.

But M5S looks poised to form an alliance with the opposition Democratic Party (PD).

Both M5S and PD voted against Salvini despite the departing interior minister’s offer to back a plan to cut the number of MPs.

Salvini said he would back the parliamentary cull, one of M5S’s key pledges to its voter base, on condition both parties supported a no-confidence vote in the independent prime minister they both selected as a compromise, Giuseppe Conte, and hold an early general election.

The reform was eagerly sought by the M5S to reduce the number of highly paid parliamentarians and their entourages, derided by some Italians as a political “caste”. The parliamentary vote is scheduled for August 22 and will almost certainly not be able to take place if the government fell beforehand.

M5S leader Luigi Di Maio said Salvini’s offer was contradictory because the electoral reform would take at least eight months, during which time an election could not be held.

The M5S dismissed the offer of legislative support.

“Salvini is at a dead end, if he wants to reduce the number of MPs, he can’t vote no-confidence in Conte,” Di Maio said about his fellow deputy prime minister.

Salvini has taken his right-wing Lega Nord from its low point of 4 per cent of the vote in 2013 to more than 36 per cent in May’s European election.

He cut “Nord” from the name, turning what was once a northern separatist party into a national, populist movement.

Salvini’s political ascent has been aided by his relentless campaigning on social media and at rallies across the country in his “man of the people” style. His demonising of migrants, Roma, Muslims and left-wing “do-gooders” has also been a reliable component of his success.

Salvini needs to capitalise on the Lega’s growing popularity. Backing for the party has leapt from 17.4 per cent to around 38 per cent since the March 2018 general election, while support for M5S has halved.

The fear of migrants has boosted the Lega’s popularity. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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