Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 15 November 2019

100,000 rally in Rome in support of Italy’s right-wing Matteo Salvini

Italy’s former deputy prime minster called for an alliance of the centre-right and the far-right to defeat the government in Rome

League party leader Matteo Salvini greets supporters after an anti-government demonstration in Rome, Italy REUTERS
League party leader Matteo Salvini greets supporters after an anti-government demonstration in Rome, Italy REUTERS

Italy’s far-right figurehead Matteo Salvini addressed a crowd of about 100,000 people in Rome as he called on the political right to rally around him.

Mr Salvini appeared on stage at the "Italian Pride" rally with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and far-right leader Giorgia Meloni, and called for public support to defeat Italy’s sitting centre-left government.

"We're here in this piazza because we have a big responsibility, to answer our people's call for unity," Mr Berlusconi said, calling the government "the most left-wing” of the past 70 years.

Mr Salvini responded: "I would like that, since the team always wins and never alone.

"The embrace of this square should also go to Giorgia Meloni and Silvio Berlusconi, because together we win."

He said the crowd in the square represented the “true Italy”.

Organisers claimed as many as 200,000 had attended the demonstration, in a show of Mr Salvini’s growing popularity.

Supporters travelled to the Italian capital on eight trains and 400 coaches organised from across the country.

The demonstrators posed for selfies and carried the Italian and League flags during the rally. Some carried devotional Christian pictures.

Mr Salvini, the anti-immigrant former interior minister, has had his popularity quickly rebound after setbacks over the summer.

His League, although the junior partner in the previous government, overshadowed his allies the in Five Star Movement.

In August, hoping to go to a snap election and capitalise on a strong lead in opinion polls, Mr Salvini ended the coalition with the anti-establishment, populist Five Star.

While in government, Mr Salvini used his position create a standoff between Italy and the international charities operating migrant rescue ships in the Mediterranean.

Under security legislation he introduced, international organisations faced huge fines for sailing their vessels into Italian ports, with custodial sentences handed to the ships’ captains.

But Mr Salvini’s hopes for a swift election were thwarted when Five Star struck a coalition deal with the centre-left Democratic Party.

His exile to the political wilderness delivered a brief slump in popularity for Mr Salvini’s party. But in opposition, he has electrified his base.

In Rome he continued to exploit Italy’s migration woes, saying that in government he had seen first-hand how authorities were unwilling to deal with refugees and asylum seekers.

Recent polls have shown his message continues to resonate. League stands at between 30 to 33 per cent of voter intentions.

Five Star and the Democrats have dropped slightly to between 18 and 20 per cent each.

While still in government, Mr Salvini indicated he was unwilling to work with Mr Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Ms Meloni’s Italian Brothers.

His most recent rally showed readiness to be more pragmatic and form an alliance before the next election.

While Italy’s next general election is not due until 2023, the ruling coalition could fall apart before then.

Ms Meloni, whose party has regularly praised Italy’s wartime fascist leader Benito Mussolini, vowed to fight against what she referred to as “the Islamisation of Europe”.

"Let's fight this battle together beyond the confines of individual parties, without selfishness, and we will be unstoppable," she told the crowd.

Updated: October 21, 2019 02:30 AM

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