As the European elections draw closer, opinion polls in Italy have put populist Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s Lega party above the 30 per cent mark, fueling speculation that his party could become the largest in the European Parliament.
According to Roberto Weber, head of the opinion research institute Ixe, Salvini and Lega will easily dominate the European elections in Italy, as no other parties running are even close to them in recent polling data, he said when speaking to Swedish newspaper Ystads Allehanda.
“There are no opinion institutions here that believe that Lega gets below 30 percent. So they are more than twice as large, although the EU election is different from the national elections. But it is still a strong tailwind for Salvini,” Weber told the paper.
Italy, Europe Elects projection:
'If there was European election today…'
Number of Seats (MEPs)
LEGA-ENF: 26 (+20)
M5S-EFDD: 18 (+7)
PD-S&D: 16 (-10)
FI-EPP: 8 (-2)
FdI-ECR: 5 (+1)
— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) May 13, 2019
According to Weber, Salvini has filled a gap in Italian politics that was once held by former Prime Minister and current leader of Forza Italia, Silvio Berlusconi. “Salvini builds the same voter base that Berlusconi did in the early 2000s,” he said and claimed some Italians had a need for a strong leader.
Weber also added that Italians look at domestic politics, rather than European Union politics, and that many are concerned with issues like mass migration, jobs and a weak Italian economy overall.
The coalition partners of Lega in government, the Five Star Movement, have seen a rapid decline in the polls and while they consistently poll second to Lega, they are often double-digits behind. Weber attributed the loss in support from the lack of real policy changes promised by the movement along with infighting with Lega and corruption scandals.
In one major incident, several Five Star senators openly rebelled against Salvini and movement leader Luigi Di Maio, voting against the migration and security decree drafted by Salvini last year.
Lega’s poll numbers also rival and may even surpass, those of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) which, combined with its sister party, the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) could win 27 seats according to a projection by Europe Elects, but on its own the CDU would only win 23 seats.
Germany, Europe Elects seat projection:
'If there was EU election today' (+/- vs. now)
CDU-EPP: 23 -6
GRÜNE-G/EFA: 17 +6
SPD-S&D: 17 -10
AfD-EFDD: 12 +11
FDP-ALDE: 8 +5
LINKE-LEFT: 8 +1
CSU-EPP: 4 -1
FW-ALDE: 2 +1
PARTEI-NI: 2 +1
TIER-LEFT: 1 +1
PIRATEN-*: 1 +1
— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) May 12, 2019
In France, Salvini’s key ally Marine Le Pen and her party, the Rassemblement National (RN) are also leading French President Emmanuel Macron’s Le Republique en Marche! (LREM) in some recent polls. The new polling results led Ms Le Pen to declare that the EU election was a referendum on Macron’s presidency and said that if he loses, he must resign.