Tuesday

20th Aug 2019

Salvini triumphs in Italy

  • 'Not only is the League the biggest party in Italy, Marine Le Pen's party is the biggest in France and Nigel Farage's is the biggest in the UK,' pointed out Salvini during his press conference (Photo: russia.tv)

The European elections in Italy were an indisputable triumph for Matteo Salvini and his governing League party.

The far-right party doubled its vote compared to the national elections in 2018, while the other governing party, the Five Star Movement (M5S), lost half of its voters.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Former Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, managed to get himself elected, despite a drop in support to his party (Photo: Caterina Tani)

The turnout decreased slightly in contrast to the overall trend in Sunday's European parliament elections, with 56.1 percent casting their vote, compared to 58.7 percent five years ago.

The result is destined to have a destabilising impact on domestic politics with the inversion of the balance of power between the two governing parties.

"Only five years ago the newspapers talked about the League being close to extinction. Now we are the biggest party, both in the north and in the south," League leader Matteo Salvini said.

With 34.4 percent of the votes, the League's delegation in Brussels looks to be second only to Germany's CDU and equal to the UK Brexit Party.

Crucifix

"Not only is the League the biggest party in Italy, Marine Le Pen's party is the biggest in France and Nigel Farage's is the biggest in the UK," said Salvini during his press conference, as he held up a crucifix and added that this was "a sign of change in Europe".

Salvini thus had considerable success in his attempt to transform the European vote into a referendum about himself and his party's performance in government.

For a moment it looked like it could have backfired, when Salvini became the target of protests during his electoral campaign around the country, but this seems only to have galvanised his supporters.

One should bear in mind, however, that the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) obtained no less than 40 percent of the votes at the European elections in 2014 – only to see its leader at that time, Matteo Renzi, swept from power two and a half years later.

This time around, the PD got almost 23 percent of the vote under new secretary Nicola Zingaretti – four percent more than in last year's national vote, but still considerably less than in 2014, meaning that weight in the socialist group in the European Parliament will be diminished given, given that they are no longer the largest national delegation.

"The nationalist aggression on the European institutions has failed. In the European Parliament there is a broad and solid majority for change, but also for re-launching the European dream," Zingaretti wrote on Twitter as a reaction to the results.

But the result does confirm that Italians perceive Salvini as the government's real leader.

For M5S, who obtained slightly less than 17 percent (compared to 32 percent in the national election last year), the outcome of the vote is a serious problem.

Compared to the last European elections, M5S lost five percent of its support, and it is not yet entirely clear in which group in the European Parliament the party will end up after having initially allied itself with the Brexit Party's leader, Nigel Farage, in the last term.

According to Italian news magazine L'espresso's editor-in-chief, Marco Damilano, M5S' leader Luigi Di Maio "walked into a trap", when he accepted to form a government with the League. Ever since M5S has been "entirely hypnotised" by the League, and Di Maio has now become the victim of political blackmail.

"You either bin the parts of the government contract that you hold dearest, or you take upon yourself the responsibility of sending the country to new parliamentary elections with the prospect of losing two-thirds of the party's parliamentarians," Damilano said.

The European issues were remarkably absent from the campaign, which reflects the fact that Italians' trust in the European Union has dropped significantly in recent years. The governing parties have stressed the need for national solutions to the major political issues, such as unemployment and migration.

"To speak of the European Parliament as something which is relevant would send a message, which would go in the opposite direction to what the League and M5S want and be incoherent," Marco Venturini, an expert in political communication, said.

The far-right party, Brothers of Italy, whose MEPs will presumably join Salvini's new group in the European Parliament, also picked up seats, unlike other small pro-European parties.

Berlusconi's back

Former Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, managed to get himself elected, despite a drop in support to his party.

Forza Italia obtained 8.8 percent of the votes, compared to 16.8 percent at the last European elections and 14 percent at the national elections last year.

Berlusconi will thus make his comeback as lawmaker after being expelled from elected office due to a conviction for tax fraud in 2013. At the last national vote and in regional elections held along with the European vote Forza Italia ran in an electoral alliance with the League and Brothers of Italy.

However, it is unlikely that Salvini should attempt to form a government Berlusconi, which would be perceived as a return to the past.

Feature

Salvini hosts anti-EU 'summit', as old ghosts haunt party

Italy's far-right League called for a "historic" defeat of pro-EU forces at its event in Milan this weekend, but fiscal clashes, fascist symbols, and mafia links cast Salvini's party in a controversial light.

Feature

Italy train row exposes competing views of EU

A planned high-speed railway connection through the Alps between Italy and France has been highly controversial for decades and is pitting governing Italian coalition parties against each other. But the European Commission insists it must go ahead.

Who is the new EU parliament president, David Sassoli?

The 63-year-old centre-left Italian MEP was elected president of the European Parliament, with 345 votes. A former journalist, Sassoli has experience as a vice-president of the parliament, but is little known.

Parliament outmanoeuvred in EU top-post game

The European Parliament on Tuesday lost a years-long power struggle, and gave up winning more influence on European politics via the so-called Spitzenkandidat process it had championed.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Spain calls for legal action against Italy on migrants
  2. Trump to meet Greenland leader in Denmark
  3. Irish border plan is 'anti-democratic', Johnson tells EU
  4. Polish deputy minister targeted judges in hate campaign
  5. EU ends silence on Hong Kong protests
  6. Is Salvini closing just harbours or also the rule of law?
  7. No-deal Brexit would seriously harm UK, leaked paper says
  8. Selmayr did not keep formal records of lobby meetings

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us