Italy Heading to Elections as Populist, Border Control Salvini Prepares to go it Alone Without Coalition

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 27: Italy's Deputy Prime Minister and leader of right-wing Lega (League) political party Matteo Salvini attends a news conference following the European Parliamentary election results at Lega's headquarter on May 27, 2019 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)
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The junior coalition partner in Italy’s left-right populist government is pushing the country towards fresh elections as the pro-border control League party led by Matteo Salvini continues to dominate in the polls, and relations between the two governing parties collapse.

Matteo Salvini called on the Italian Prime Minister to recognise that the government had collapsed overnight Thursday, demanding a vote of no confidence and fresh elections. While the populist leader, who has dominated the media landscape over his successes on curbing immigration, praised the achievements of the government so far he said it was not capable of more while the constituent parties squabbled and the best thing for Italy now is an election as soon as possible.

The coalition is effectively over, reports Italian newspaper Il Giornale, after Salvini’s league blocked a big-spend high-speed rail project that would have cut journey times from Italy to France. The development comes just hours after Salvini told his political colleagues to cancel their holiday plans and prepare for a government crisis.

The Italian government has seemed increasingly unstable in recent months, as the once functional but unlikely coalition between the anti-establishment left-populist Five Star Movement (M5S) and the pro-border control right-populist League has slowly broken down. While policy differences have become more obvious, perhaps the greatest difficulty has been the role reversal in the public eye of the two parties which went into government together in 2018.

At the time of the general election, the left-wing Five Star was the senior partner and largest party in Italy with 32 per cent of the vote, while the strongly pro-border control league took just 17 per cent. But the League’s Matteo Salvini, who took the position of interior minister, has dominated the government since and grabbed headlines at home and abroad, overshadowing the prime minister.

Recent polling and their performance at the European Union elections puts the League at close to 40 per cent, making them the would-be largest party in Italy, suggesting patience at playing second fiddle to M5S, who has now fallen to 17 per cent. Last year, Salvini polled as the most trusted politician in Italy, taking 56 per cent in a country where trust in politicians is generally low.

Salvini’s hard-nosed attitude towards the mass migration crisis impacting the country, with shiploads of migrants arriving on its shores from the Mediterranean has proven consistently popular with voters — 63 per cent of Italians said they approved of his new anti-migration decree earlier this year.

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