As The Italian Election Approaches, All Eyes Are On Matteo Salvini

Luca BrunoAP Images

On March 4, Italian voters will elect the next parliament for the 18th legislature since 1948. Their votes will determine the 630 members of the Camera dei Deputati, which is the lower chamber, and the 315 members of the Camera del Senato, which is the upper house or the Senate.

As this date draws closer, discussions regarding illegal immigration have grown louder. On Sunday, the BBC reported that “Italian politicians of all stripes” have adopted a tough stance on this issue in reaction to the frustration of many.

The recent gruesome death of 18-year-old Pamela Mastropietro in Macerata has ensured that this topic will remain a primary consideration as Italians cast their votes. Indeed, feelings of anger have been exacerbated by Mastropietro’s murder.

According to the Daily Mail, she had been reported missing. Subsequently, she was found dismembered “in a pair of suitcases in a ditch.” Nigerian national Innocent Oseghale, who had been an asylum seeker, was arrested for allegedly committing the murder.

Per the Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA), Salvini, who is the leader of Lega (League), vowed to supporters in early February that Ms. Mastropietro’s “sacrifice” would not be without result. This rhetoric has won Salvini, who could be Italy’s next prime minister, support.

Salvini’s rising popularity has invited outside observers to take a closer look at the politician that has forged a warm friendship with French politician Marine Le Pen, who has been regarded as a persona non grata in many circles in her own country.

Salvini took over the leadership of the party from Umberto Bossi, the founder, in 2013. He promptly changed the name from Lega Nord per l’Indipendenza della Padania (North League for the Independence of Padania) to Lega. Whereas Bossi pushed for the secession of Italy’s north, Salvini remade the party into one for the whole of the country. He has promised to put Italians first, which is reminiscent of Trump’s mantra of prioritizing Americans’ needs and interests ahead of those of foreign nationals.

Lega supporters hold flares at a party rally in Milan as they listen to Matteo Salvini on Wednesday, February 24, 2018.
Lega supporters hold flares as they arrive at a party rally in Milan to listen to Matteo Salvini on Wednesday, February 24, 2018.Featured image credit: Antonio CalanniAP Images

This message from the self-styled defender of Italy’s culture is particularly attractive not only on account of the large numbers of illegals that have not all assimilated into Italian society but also due to an ailing economy that has given people little reason to cheer.

Further buoyed by his party’s alliance with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (Go Italy) and Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy), which has Rachele Mussolini, one of Benito Mussolini’s granddaughters, as a candidate, Matteo Salvini has a chance of playing a critical role in Italy’s immediate future.

Many media outlets still have the party of the charismatic Berlusconi ahead of that of Salvini though. If the lead holds, the former, who cannot run for public office for the next six years on account of his 2012 conviction for tax evasion, will be in a position to act as kingmaker.

Nevertheless, this possibility is much more likely to become the reality if this coalition wins an absolute majority. Otherwise, outreach to the left, which has created alliances of its own, might be necessary in order to govern Italy.

Regardless of the outcome, however, Matteo Salvini has established himself as a political force that remembers those that feel forgotten, angered, or overwhelmed.