Populist Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini and his Lega dominated the European Parliament elections beating expectations with 34.27 per cent of the vote while the Five Star Movement has slumped into third place.
Lega (League) beat prior exit poll expectations according to results published by Italian newspaper Il Giornale, with the Five Star Movement sinking down to third place behind the left-wing Democratic Party which came in at 22.7 per cent compared to just 17 per cent for the Five Star Movement.
Unlike French populist Marine Le Pen, who made a speech calling for President Emmanuel Macron to dissolve parliament and call fresh national elections earlier in the night, Salvini posted a brief message on Twitter following exit polls being released saying, “A single word: THANK YOU Italy!” while holding a sign reading “#1 Party in Italy THANK YOU”.
Una sola parola: GRAZIE Italia! 🇹 pic.twitter.com/PEmaNvCpNJ
— Matteo Salvini (@matteosalvinimi) May 26, 2019
“The rules are changing in Europe,” Salvini commented early Monday morning adding: “A new Europe is born. I will say to those who have sunk the European dream, transforming it into a nightmare, that I am proud that the League participated in this new rebirth of a sunken Europe.”
The vote was a resounding defeat for the populist anti-establishment Five Star Movement which has seen its voters’ share go from over 30 per cent in the 2018 national elections to just 17 per cent in the European elections.
Forza Italia, led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, won 8.77 per cent of the vote along with the national-conservative Brothers of Italy (FdI) which saw their first European Parliament seat win.
Leader of FdI Georgia Meloni commented on the win by advocating for new national elections saying: “These elections say that now the League and Brothers of Italy represent an alternative majority. It will be up to each of the actors in the field to decide whether to follow the indications of the Italians.”
Shortly before the EU elections earlier this month, both Salvini and Berlusconi hinted at possible cooperation.
“Lega and the Brothers of Italy also realised that alone in Europe they would remain in the corner or they would not count for anything. Our mission starts with changing alliances with the European left. We must build, also with my presence in the EPP, a new alliance with the moderate right parties and also with Orbán and Salvini,” Berlusconi said.