Italy: the League, the origins of a populist formation in the process of co-governing the country


After participating in Berlusconi governments, the populist party could form a coalition with the 5-star movement.
The negotiations continue in Italy between the 5-star Movement (M5S) and the League , for form a coalition government more than two months after the parliamentary elections. Both parties won 32% and 17% respectively. This would be the first M5S participation in a government, while the Northern League has several times participated in coalitions when Silvio Berlusconi was president of the Italian Council.
Read the zoom:
         Italy: what is the 5 Star Movement?

How was the League born? The League was founded in 1989 by Umberto Bossi by merging the Lombard League and ten regionalist and autonomist movements of northern Italy. Among them: Franco Rocchetta’s Liga veneta, Bruno Salvadori’s Union of Valle d’Aosta, Gipo Farassino’s Piedmontese League, Bruno Ravera’s Uniun Ligure, Tommaso Fragassi’s Alleanza Toscana, and Lega emiliano-romagnola. It became a political party in 1991 and is called at the time the Northern League for the independence of Padania. It was directed by Umberto Bossi until April 2012.
What does the League claim for its creation? In its beginnings, the Northern League calls for the independence of Padania. This imaginary region corresponds to the plain of Po. It includes Piedmont, Lombardy, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Valle d’Aosta, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna.
In this virtual zone would live the Padan people. ” Despite the long-standing anti-Meridionalism in northern Italy, North-South opposition has so far never been expressed in terms of autochthony, colonialism, and ethnic oppression. ” , decrypts the researcher Marta Machiavelli in her article The Northern League and the invention of the Padan . The Northern League transforms pre-existing prejudices, for example on the supposed laziness of the Italians of the South, into an ethnic cleavage. ” The Padans are compared to the Sioux, an indigenous people invaded by foreigners who stole his land and destroyed his way of life. ” Marta Machiavelli continues. In practice, ” pADANS ” have no common language, no religious specificity, no past political unity.
A federalist or independence party? The two claims – federalism and autonomy – though contradictory, have long coexisted. Goal : return possible alliances with other political parties. Since 1996, the League focuses on federalist themes, for the legislative. This does not prevent its founder, Umberto Bossi, from Carry on at defend his independence line. Example: in the spring of 2001, he took an oath for his entry into the government. ” the exit Quirinal [residence of the President of the Republic], he declares to the press that this oath does not bind him in any way, since it is made by a Padan, therefore a person who does not recognize the existence of the Italian State ” , recalls researcher Clotilde Champeyrache in her article “The Northern League: the ambiguous return of territorial identity on the Italian political scene” , published in the journal online Political Space. In 2010, in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais , Umberto Bossi repeats that “Padania is a nation” who must to have his “Autonomy”.
In the fall of 2017, one more step is made towards federalism, line worn by Matteo Salvini , boss of the party since 2013. The latter changes its name, from “the Northern League” to “the League”. Goal : to become a national party in the perspective of the legislative elections of 2018.
What is the political label of the League? For researcher Marta Machiavelli, the League is ” a politically unclassifiable chameleon party ” . But most commentators rank the party on the far right.
The League is particularly characterized by its xenophobia. For example, the mayor of Coccaglio (in Lombardy), Franco Claretti launched in autumn 2009 the operation ” Christmas white » , in order to inventory the aliens of his commune and denounce the clandestine ones at the prefecture. In February 2018, the author of the armed attack against six Africans in the streets of Macerata is a former candidate of the Northern League at Municipal. After the facts, the party leader, Matteo Salvini, simply stated that ” someone who is shooting is a delinquent, regardless of the skin color ” . The politician did not explicitly condemn the author of the attack and even rejected the fault sure ” invasion ” migration that Italy would suffer.
The League is now sovereignist and eurosceptic, although initially it was a league “Hostile to Rome the thief, hating the people of southern Italy while being pro-European” , recently recalled the researcher Marc Lazar in a interview at World . The party has gradually criticized Europe, coming closer to the positioning of the French National Front. The League wishes to leave the euro zone, “German currency” , according to Matteo Salvini, and ultimately the European Union, without further specify his approach.
The League is also populist and anti-tax. For example, it favors a flat rate income tax of 15%, also known as flat tax. Today, Italian income tax is progressive in six installments, ranging from a rate of 23% to 43%.
What national political responsibilities has the League played since its creation? The radical discourse of the League did not prevent its members from reaching the highest positions. For example, its founder, Umberto Bossi, was minister for institutional reforms for three years from 2001 to 2004 in the government of Silvio Berlusconi (Forza Italia, center right). From 2008 to 2011, he was Minister of Reforms for Federalism. Roberto Lombardi, successor of Bossi at the head of the League, was meanwhile Minister of Labor from 2001 to 2006, then Minister of the Interior from 2008 to 2011. In the Berlusconi IV government (2008-2011), four ministers and eight secretaries of state belonged to the League.


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