Punished in the polls, belittled in public by Mario Draghi, overshadowed by the pull of Giorgia Meloni on the right. The leader of the League, Matteo Salvini, is preparing to govern Italy again with the right-wing coalition, without himself being the protagonist. He knows perfectly well that the polls send him to fourth position, but he assures that "it would be an honor to be elected prime minister" by President Sergio Mattarella.
In recent years he was the visible face of the Italian right. Now Brothers of Italy, the only party in opposition to Mario Draghi, has stolen his wallet. Yesterday, from the great meeting in Pontida, the mythological capital of the League, Salvini wanted to smooth things over and made a promise to the Italians: "I, Giorgia and Silvio (Berlusconi) agree on almost everything and we will govern well and together for five years".
Salvini's difficult personal situation was heavily camouflaged in Pontida. The Milanese politician brought together 100,000 supporters – according to the organization – at the party's annual party in the meadow of this town in the province of Bergamo, which for 30 years has brought together the faithful party members following the legend that says that, In April 1167, the Lombard League swore to create an army to defend themselves together from the invasion in the church of San Giacomo Maggiore.
This time it was urgent to give a show of force. The far-right promised the return of a strong hand against immigration or launch Eurosceptic ideas. "I want Italy to be a protagonist in Europe, not accompanying the elections in Paris and Berlin," he warned, calling for "an alliance of Mediterranean countries" – with Spain – to stop immigration. He celebrated the electoral result of Sweden, which has “sent the left home” by voting for the right and the extreme right. There was something for everyone, including Joe Biden: "If Trump had been in his place, things would be different."
The Italian political crusher burns the leaders fast. In the 2019 European elections, Salvini swept the League to 34% of the vote with his strong hand against immigration when he was Minister of the Interior in Giuseppe Conte's first government. A historic result. But then he was quick to topple Conte's chief executive and ended up in opposition. Between the pandemic and the juggling with five other parties in Draghi's executive, he has ended up falling to 12% in the polls.
The tensions in the right-wing coalition are evident. A former admirer of Putin, Salvini insists on showing his ambiguity towards Russia, defending that the economic sanctions imposed by the West are not useful. Meloni, on the other hand, guarantees loyalty to NATO. Nor do they agree on how to deal with energy bills: Salvini wants Italy to go deeper into debt, Meloni does not. “I am surprised that he sometimes seems more controversial with me than with his opponents,” suggested the leader of the Brothers of Italy in a television interview.
The concern in the League is also great because Brothers of Italy, deeply rooted in Rome, is beginning to win votes from northern businessmen, who see it as more reliable. And if he falls behind the Brothers of Italy in the Veneto, there will be someone who asks for his head. Doge Luca Zaia, the popular president of the region, received a standing ovation. From the Pontida box, he gave a clear warning: if it is not possible to advance in the regional autonomy that the League has always requested for the north, the League will have to leave the government. Salvini's influence will depend on the results and the polls are not smiling on him. To the right-wing coalition, yes. Either there is a major surprise, or they will be able to form a government together without mishaps.