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3rd Feb 2023

Feature

Why northeast Italy traded in League for Brothers of Italy

  • 'Matteo Salvini has shot himself in the foot, he has made so many mistakes since 2019', 26-year-old Alice, a clerk returning home from the supermarket, told EUobserver (Photo: Valentina Saini)
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Among Italy's 20 regions, Veneto, in the north-eastern part of the country, is the one where Giorgia Meloni's far-right party Brothers of Italy (FdI) achieved the best results in last Sunday's (25 September) election.

In this wealthy and highly-industrialised region, her party got 32.4 percent of the vote, compared to the League's 16.6, to the shock of journalists and political scientists.

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  • For more than two decades, Veneto had been the League's stronghold; in the 2018 elections, the far-right party led by Matteo Salvini took nearly 32 percent of the vote, against the Brothers' four percent (Photo: Gabriele Catania)

For more than two decades, Veneto had been the League's stronghold; in the 2018 elections, the far-right party led by Matteo Salvini took nearly 32 percent of the vote, against the Brothers' four percent.

Carlo Valerio, entrepreneur and president of the Padua's section of Confapi, a lobby of small and medium enterprises, blamed the League's collapse on the fact that it had "created many expectations, especially among us entrepreneurs, which were not translated into reality. In 2018 and 2019 it governed in coalition with the 5-Star Movement but did nothing. Then it was part of the Draghi-led government, but it brought it down. Salvini led the League very badly."

EUobserver spoke with several business figures and they all confirm: they voted for FdI because it promises stability, less bureaucracy and tax cuts for businesses; also, Salvini's anti-EU rhetoric scares them, while they trust that Meloni has "more common sense".

Giacomo Cervo is a young university student and left-wing activist who lives in Venice and knows Veneto's rural areas well. While walking through one of Venice's maze-like streets, he said, "I think that a part of the League's big shots in Veneto's villages and towns have hindered Salvini. They are fed up with his leadership.

"In addition, the right-wing protest vote has shifted from the League to FdI: part of the voters do not like that the League governed with Draghi."

Many blue-collar workers do not seem to like the former president of the ECB.

Businesses and blue-collar workers

EUobserver spoke to a group of workers in Mestre, a suburb of Venice; speaking in Venetian dialect, one called Draghi "the friend of the Germans and the French," another said, "in Rome Draghi has done so much for the banks, so little for the people, who are now paying skyrocketing electricity and gas bills. And you know who was in Rome with him? Salvini."

The city of Vicenza is the 'spiritual capital' of the League. A neo-Palladian villa in a nearby town once housed the headquarters of the "Parliament of the North" — a kind of assembly of the League when, in the 1990s, the party used to call for federalism and thunder against Rome.

In the Renaissance city centre of Vicenza, 28-year-old model and event organiser Elena, told EUobserver: "Maybe League voters stopped believing in that party. Salvini has not been a good leader."

Maria Teresa, 63, is a pensioner. She is anxious about the rising cost of living and thinks there is now more confidence in Meloni than in the League.

"Salvini has shot himself in the foot, he has made so many mistakes since 2019." 26-year-old Alice, a clerk returning home from the supermarket noted, "In recent years the League has made only empty promises. FdI was successful in Veneto and the rest of Italy because it promised what workers and entrepreneurs wanted to hear."

Giulia and Matteo are 26 and 29 years old: she is an intern at a law firm and he is a truck driver.

According to Matteo, FdI may have had a better result than the League because "Meloni has never been in government." Giulia said, "I think there is disillusionment with the League. Salvini made promises that he did not keep, people are fed up."

Giuseppe is a vendor of clothing at the local weekly market. He is 66. EUobserver met him in the main square of Vicenza, Piazza dei Signori. He said: "I voted for Meloni. No one believes in Salvini anymore. He was supposed to stop illegal immigrants and he didn't. People feel betrayed."

Both Giuseppe's grandfather and father were traveling salesmen. He recounts that his father voted for the Communists, and so did he when he was young. But according to him, the Democratic Party, the largest centre-left party in Italy, does not represent working people. "I hope Meloni is different."

Giorgia is a 30-year-old accountant who also works as a maître d' on weekends. "Many people in Veneto have a somewhat closed mentality, and they are fixated on immigration. FdI has appropriated issues that were typical of the League, such as fighting immigration" she explained. Sounds like Veneto may have a new League, and it is called Brothers of Italy."

Author bio

Valentina Saini is a freelance journalist specialising in Italian social issues and politics, gender issues and the Middle East and North Africa region.

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