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Matteo Salvini

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Matteo Salvini
Matteo Salvini Viminale (cropped).jpg
Deputy Prime Minister of Italy
Assumed office
1 June 2018
Serving with Luigi Di Maio
Prime MinisterGiuseppe Conte
Preceded byAngelino Alfano (2014)
Minister of the Interior
Assumed office
1 June 2018
Prime MinisterGiuseppe Conte
Preceded byMarco Minniti
Federal Secretary of Northern League
Assumed office
15 December 2013
Preceded byRoberto Maroni
Member of the Senate of the Republic
Assumed office
23 March 2018
Member of the European Parliament
In office
14 July 2009 – 22 March 2018
ConstituencyNorth-West Italy
In office
20 July 2004 – 7 November 2006
ConstituencyNorth-West Italy
Member of the Chamber of Deputies
In office
29 April 2008 – 13 July 2009
ConstituencyLombardy 1
Personal details
Born (1973-03-09) 9 March 1973 (age 45)
Milan, Italy
Political partyNorthern League
Other political
Us with Salvini (2014–present)
Fabrizia Ieluzzi
(m. 2003; div. 2010)
Domestic partnerElisa Isoardi (2015–2018)
WebsiteOfficial website

Matteo Salvini (Italian pronunciation: [matˈtɛːo salˈviːni];[1][2] born 9 March 1973) is an Italian politician serving as Deputy Prime Minister of Italy and Minister of the Interior since 1 June 2018. He has also been Federal Secretary of Northern League since December 2013 and the leader of Us with Salvini since December 2014. He has been a Senator in the Italian Senate since March 2018. He previously served as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the constituency of North-West Italy from 2004 to 2018.[3]

He has been considered as a hard Eurosceptic politician, holding starkly critical view of the European Union, especially of the euro. Salvini opposes illegal immigration into Italy and the EU as well as the EU's management of asylum seekers. He is also considered one of the main leaders of the populist wave which shook Europe during 2010s and a member of the neo-nationalist movement, a rightist ideology which emphasized anti-globalization, nativist and protectionist stances.[4][5]

Salvini is nicknamed "The Captain" (Il Capitano) by his supporters.[6][7] Many political commentators and newspapers, such as The Guardian, The New York Times, the Financial Times, The Economist, and the Huffington Post, have characterized him as a strongman and currently as the most powerful and prominent man in Italy.[8][9][10][11][12] His political views have been described by British websites The Guardian and The Independent as on the far-right.[13][14][15]

Early life

Matteo Salvini was born in Milan in 1973, the son of a business executive and a housewife.[16] In 1985, at the age of 12, he took part in Doppio slalom (the Italian version of Blockbusters), hosted by Corrado Tedeschi on Canale 5 and in 1993, at the age of 20, he participated on Il pranzo è servito, hosted by Davide Mengacci, which was broadcast by Rete 4.[17][18]

Salvini studied at the Classical Lyceum "Alessandro Manzoni" in Milan and later attended the University of Milan where he first studied Political Science and then moved to History; however, after 16 years in University, and 5 exams away from his graduation, he interrupted his studies in order to start his political career and never graduated.[19][20]

During his youth, Salvini became a member of the left-wing social centre Leoncavallo, which strongly influenced his early political orientation before becoming the main representative of the right-wing faction of Lega Nord (or Northern League).[21] Following some criticism directed to Salvini for his change of political orientation, from the left wing to the populist right, Salvini responded: "Ironically, I see more leftist values in the European right than in some left-wing parties; these parties and these movements are those that today defend workers, those who lead right battles. Thus, I do not see anything strange to look for a dialogue with who today embodies the resistance to this wrong Europe."[16][22][23]

Early political career

In 1990 Salvini became a member of Lega Nord, the regionalist and separatist movement founded by Umberto Bossi in 1989. He was an active member of Young Padanians Movement, Lega Nord's youth faction, of which he became city coordinator for Milan in 1992 and city secretary in 1997.[24] In the same year he started working as journalist for La Padania, the official newspaper of Lega Nord.[25] In 1999 he has also worked on Lega's radio broadcaster Radio Padania Libera and since July 2003 he was registered as a journalist on the list of Italian professional journalists.[26]

In 1993 he was elected in the Milan City Council, a post that he would hold until 2012.[27] While in 1997 he participated in the Padanian elections and was elected within the list Comunisti Padani (Padanian Communists), which gained 5 seats out of 210. In the following year, he was elected provincial secretary of the League for Milan.

In 1999 during an official visit of Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi in Milan, Salvini refused to shake his hand, stating that Ciampi did not represent him.[28][29]

European Parliament and local leader

Salvini during a Young Padanians rally in 2006

Salvini was elected with 14,000 votes a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the North-West region in 2004 and participated in the European Parliament as a part of the Non-Inscrits.[30] During the legislature he selected Franco Bossi, brother of the party's secretary Umberto, as his parliamentary assistant.[31]

In 2006 he lost his office as member of the European Parliament and was replaced by Gian Paolo Gobbo. Salvini was then re-elected city councilor in Milan, in the municipal election of that year, with over 3,000 votes. In the same year he became deputy secretary of Lombard League, along with Marco Reguzzoni, and party's leader in the city council.

Salvini ran in the 2008 general election and was elected in the Chamber of Deputies for the constituency Lombardy 1.[32] However he resigned on 13 July 2009, after being elected once again in the European Parliament in the June election.[33] In the Parliament he sat in the Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group.

On 2 June 2012, Salvini become the federal secretary of the Lombard League defeating Cesarino Monti with 403 votes against 129.[34] Following the election, on 12 October he decided to leave the office of group leader and city councilor after 19 years. The left-wing mayor Giuliano Pisapia, a strong rival of Salvini, stated: "We will miss you, Matteo".[35] Salvini was later elected deputy in the 2013 genera election, but he renounced his mandate on the first day of the legislature, and was replaced by Marco Rondini; Salvini maintained the position of MEP.[36]

After the 2014 European election, in which he was re-elected, he returned to the Non-Inscrits.[37] In June 2015, he was part of the creation of a new group, the Europe of Nations and Freedom, which also included parties such as the French National Front and the Dutch Party for Freedom; he was also the vice-president of the Italian delegation.

He sat on the European Parliament's Committee on Culture and Education, and was a substitute for the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and a member of the Delegation to the EU-Chile Joint Parliamentary Committee. He stood down from the European Parliament in November 2006.

After he was re-elected in 2009 as an MEP, he sat on the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and was a member of the Delegation for Relations with India, and the Delegation for Relations with the Korean Peninsula. He was a Substitute on the Committee on International Trade and the Delegation for Relations with South Africa.[37]

Federal Secretary of Lega Nord

Matteo Salvini speaks during a Lega Nord rally, in 2013

In September 2013, Roberto Maroni, Lega's secretary and Salvinis' mentor, announced he would soon leave the party's leadership.[38][39] After few weeks, Salvini announced his candidacy for the first Lega's leadership election. A congress was scheduled for mid December and in accordance to the new rules set for the election five candidates filed their bid to become secretary: Umberto Bossi, Giacomo Stucchi, Manes Bernardini, Roberto Stefanazzi and Salvini.[40] Of these, only Bossi and Salvini gathered the 1,000 necessary signatures by party members to take part to the internal "primary" and Salvini collected four times the signatures gathered by Bossi.[41]

On 7 December 2013 Salvini, who counted on the support of Roberto Maroni and most of the party's senior figures (including Flavio Tosi, who had renounced a bid of his own), defeated Umberto Bossi with 82% of the vote in the "primary".[42] A week later, his election was ratified by the party's federal congress in Turin.[43] Under Salvini, the party embraced a strongly critical view of the European Union,[44] especially of the euro, which he described a "crime against humanity".[45] Ahead of the 2014 European Parliament election, Salvini started to cooperate with Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, and Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom.[46][47][48] These moves were criticised by Bossi, who called attention to Salvini's left-wing roots,[49][50] and Tosi, who represented the party's pro-European wing and defended the euro.[51]

In April 2014 Salvini presented the party's logo for the European Parliament election, with Basta Euro ("No more euro") replacing Padania,[52] to emphasize the party's Euroscepticism and desire to exit from the Eurozone.[53] The party included in its slates candidates from other anti-euro and/or autonomist movements (hence Autonomie, meanining "Autonomies"), notably comprising The Freedomites, a right-wing populist and separatist party active in South Tyrol (whose symbol was also included).[54]

In the European Parliament election the party obtained 6.2% of the vote and 5 MEPs.[55] The result was far worse than the previous EP election in 2009 (a fall of 4.0%), but better than that of 2013 general election (a gain of 2.1%). The Lega Nord were third with 15.2% in Veneto (although Tosi obtained many more votes than Salvini, a fact that demonstrated Tosi's popular support and that the party was far from united on the anti-euro stance),[56] ahead of Forza Italia (FI) and the other parties emerged from the defunct People of Freedom, and fourth in Lombardy with 14.6%. Despite the party having lost Piedmont to the Democrats, after Roberto Cota had been forced to resign, Salvini was triumphant, with the success of Massimo Bitonci in being elected mayor of Padua, a Democratic stronghold, adding to the successes.

The party's federal congress, summoned in Padua in July, approved Salvini's political stance, especially a plan for the introduction of a flat tax and the creation of a sister party in central-southern Italy and the Isles.[57] In November the Emilia-Romagna regional election represented a major step for Salvini's "national project": the Lega Nord, which won 19.4% of the vote, was the region's second-larges party, and far ahead of Forza Italia, helping paving the way for the Lega Nord to become the dominant centre-right party.[58] In December the sister party for southern Italy, Us with Salvini (NcS), was launched.

Matteo Salvini in Bergamo, 2015

The party's growing popularity among voters was reflected also by a constant rise in opinion polls. A December 2014 Ipsos poll showed that Salvini's approval rating had increased by from 28% to 33%, "cementing his position as a rising political force in Italy".[59]

On 28 February 2015, Salvini led a rally in Rome protesting against illegal immigration.[60][61]

In March 2015, after a long struggle between the two main Venetian party's leaders Flavio Tosi and Luca Zaia, backed by Salvini, over the formation of the slates for the upcoming regional election in Veneto, Tosi was removed from national secretary of Liga Veneta and ejected from the federal party altogether.[62] Despite this in-fighting, the 2015 regional elections were another success for the Lega Nord, especially in Veneto, where Luca Zaia was re-elected with 50.1% of the vote and the combined score of the party's and Zaia's personal lists was 40.9%. The party also came second in Liguria with 22.3%, second in Tuscany with 16.2%, third in the Marche with 13.0% and third in Umbria with 14.0%. The Lega Nord had never polled so high in those five regions before.

After the 2016 local elections, in which the party ran below expectations in Lombardy (while doing well in Veneto—thanks to Zaia—as well as Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany) and the NcS performed badly,[63][64][65][66] Salvini's political stance came under pressure from Bossi, Maroni, and especially the recently elected leader of Lega Lombarda, Paolo Grimoldi, who criticized the party's right-wing turn and its focus on the South, while reclaiming the federalist and autonomist identity of the Lega Nord.[67][68][69]

In the run-up of the 2017 leadership election Salvini focused on becoming the leader of the centre-right[70][71] and, possibly, changing the Lega Nord's name by ditching "Northern".[72][73][74] Paolo Grimoldi, leader of Lega Lombarda, chose not to run against Salvini (and Maroni maintained his neutrality),[75][76] but Gianni Fava, Lombard regional minister of Agriculture in the old social-democratic tradition, announced his bid aiming at representing the federalist / autonomist / separatist wings of the party. Fava, who was anti-prohibition of drugs, pro-civil unions for same-sex couples and, like Bossi, anti-National Front ("[it] is one of the most centralist and conservative blocs in Europe, what does it have to do with us?"), recalled an old activist saying "let's hurry up in making Padania, then I want to return voting the left" and added "this was the League and it has to be like this anew".[77][78][79][80]

2018 general election

The logo chosen by Salvini for the 2018 electoral campaign, which resembles that of Donald Trump

On 21 December 2017, Salvini presented the new electoral logo of Northern League for the 2018 general election; for the first time since its foundation the party ran in all the constituencies of the country, using a logo without the word "North".[81]

The League obtained a resounding success, becoming the third largest party in Italy with 17.4% of the vote. The ticket won most of its votes in the North (including 32.2% in Veneto, 28.0% in Lombardy, 26.7% in Trentino, 25.8% in Friuli-Venezia Giulia and 22.6% in Piedmont), but also made inroads in the rest of the country, especially in Central Italy (notably 20.2% in Umbria), the upper part of the South (13.8% in Abruzzo) and Sardinia (10.8%). The League became the most voted party in the Centre-right coalition and thus Salvini was de facto chosen as coalition's leader; the centre-right won a plurality of seats in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate, however, no political group or party won an outright majority, resulting in a hung parliament.[82][83]

After the election's results were known, both Salvini and the head of the Five Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio, stated that they deserved to receive from President Sergio Mattarella the mandate to form a new cabinet, because they led, respectively, the largest party and the largest coalition.[84] On 6 March, Salvini repeated his campaign message that his party would refuse any coalition with the Five Star Movement.[85]

On 24 March, the centre-right coalition and the Five Star Movement agreed on the election of presidents of the Houses of Parliament, Roberto Fico of the Five Star Movement for the Chamber and Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati of Forza Italia for the Senate.[86][87][88]

Salvini with League's delegation at the Quirinal Palace in April 2018

On 7 May, President Mattarella held a third round of government formation talks, after which he formally confirmed the lack of any possible majority (Five Star Movement rejecting an alliance with the entire centre-right coalition, PD rejecting an alliance with both Five Star Movement and the centre-right coalition, and the Lega Nord's Matteo Salvini refusing to start a government with Five Star Movement but without Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, whose presence in the government was explicitly vetoed by Luigi Di Maio). Consequently, Mattarella announced his intention to soon appoint a "neutral government" (irrespective of M5S and Lega Nord's refusal to support such an option) to take over from the Gentiloni Cabinet which was considered unable to lead Italy into a second consecutive election as it was representing a majority from a past legislature, and offering an early election in July (on what would be the first ever summer general election in Italy) as a realistic option to take into consideration due to the deadlock situation.[89] The Lega and M5S agreed to hold new elections on 8 July, an option that was however rejected by all other parties.[90][91][92]

On 9 May, after a day of rumours, both Salvini and Di Maio officially requested that President Mattarella give them 24 more hours to strike a government agreement between the two parties.[93] Later the same day, in the evening, Silvio Berlusconi publicly announced Forza Italia would not support a Five Star Movement - Lega Nord government on a vote of confidence, but he would still maintain the centre-right alliance nonetheless, thus opening the door to a possible majority government between the two parties.[94]

On 13 May, the Five Star Movement and Lega Nord reached an agreement in principle on a government programme, likely clearing the way for the formation of a governing coalition between the two parties, but could not find an agreement regarding the members of a government cabinet, most importantly the prime minister. Five Star Movement and Lega Nord leaders met with Mattarella on 14 May to guide the formation of a new government.[95] On their meeting with President Mattarella, both parties asked for an additional week of negotiations to agree on a detailed government programme and a prime minister to lead the joint government. Both M5S and the League announced their intention to ask their respective members to vote on the government agreement by the weekend.

On 21 May 2018, Di Maio and Salvini proposed the professor of private law Giuseppe Conte for the role of Prime Minister in the 2018 Italian government,[96][97][98] despite reports in the Italian press suggesting that President Mattarella still had significant reservations about the direction of the new government.[99] On 23 May 2018, Conte was invited to the Quirinal Palace to receive the presidential mandate to form a new cabinet.[100][101] In the traditional statement after the appointment, Conte said that he would be the "defense lawyer of Italian people".[102]

However, on 27 May, Conte renounced his office, due to conflicts between Salvini and President Mattarella. In fact, Salvini proposed the university professor Paolo Savona as Minister of Economy and Finances, but Mattarella strongly opposed him.[103] In his speech after Conte's resignation, Mattarella declared that the two parties wanted to bring Italy out of the Eurozone, and as the guarantor of Italian Constitution and country's interest and stability he could not allow this. Moreover, in the same speech he affirmed that a possible abandonment of the euro had never been declared during the electoral campaign.[104][105]

On the following day, Mattarella gave Carlo Cottarelli, a former director of the International Monetary Fund, the task of forming a new government.[106] On 28 May 2018, the Democratic Party (PD) announced that it would abstain from voting the for Cottarelli, while the Five Star Movement and the center-right parties Forza Italia (FI), Brothers of Italy (FdI) and the League announced their vote against.[107][108]

Cottarelli was expected to submit his list of ministers for approval to President Mattarella on 29 May. However, on 29 May and 30 May he held only informal consultations with the President, waiting for the formation of a "political government".[109][110] Meanwhile, Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio announced their willingness to restart the negotiations to form a political government, Giorgia Meloni, leader of FdI, gave her support to the initiative.[109][110][111] On 31 May, the Five Star Movement and the Lega Nord reached an agreement on the new government, without Paolo Savona as finance minister (who would become Minister of European affairs instead), and with Giuseppe Conte at its head.[112][113]

Party's developments

Along with the membership recruitment of the Lega Nord in the Centre-North, in 2018 the party launched a parallel membership recruitment in the Centre-South under the name of "League for Salvini Premier" (LSP),[114] practically supplanting Us with Salvini movement. The LSP, whose statute had been published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale in December 2017[115] and had been described as a "parallel party",[116][117] might eventually replace both the LN and NcS, which would be merged into one. In the meantime, the parties' joint parliamentary groups have been named "Lega–Salvini Premier" in the Chamber[118] and "Lega–Salvini Premier–Sardinian Action Party" in the Senate.[119] According to news sources, all this is closely related to the seizure by the judiciary of the bank accounts of the LN, after the conviction of Bossi and Belsito for fraud (see Lega Nord#From Bossi to Maroni). If the seizure will be confirmed, extended to the bank accounts of the party's national sections or even involve any political entity featuring "Lega" in its name, Salvini might launch a brand-new party and absorb most of the centre-right parties into it.[120][121]

Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister

Official portrait of Salvini for the Senate

On 1 June 2018, Matteo Salvini was sworn in as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior.[122] He immediately stated that his main aim was to drastically reduce the number of illegal immigrants to Italy.[123] Early in his tenure, numerous media outlets noted that despite Salvini's junior status in the governing coalition, he placed himself in a role even more dominant than Conte and appeared to set Italy's agenda.[8][9][10][11][12] The media also noted Salvini's "savvy social media presence."[124]

Days after taking his oath, the new Interior Minister created a diplomatic incident with Tunisia, stating that the country sent Italy only convicts who came to Europe with the sole aim of committing crimes.[125] The Tunisian government expressed "profound amazement at the remarks of the Italian interior minister regarding immigration."[126]

On 10 June 2018, Salvini announced the closure of Italian ports, stating that "Everyone in Europe is doing their own business, now Italy is also raising its head. Let's stop the business of illegal immigration."[127] The vessel Aquarius, which is operated jointly by Médecins Sans Frontières and SOS Méditerranée and carried more than 600 migrants, was refused a port of disembarkation by the Italian authorities despite having been told to rescue the migrants by the same co-ordination centre. The Italian authority told the vessel to ask Malta to provide a disembarkation port, but Malta has also refused.[128] On the following day, the new Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez accepted the disputed migrant ship.[129]

On 16 June 2018, Matteo Salvini said, "These people should know that Italy no longer wants to be any part of this business of clandestine immigration and they will have to look for other ports to go to", "As minister and as a father, I take this action for the benefit of all".[130] On 18 June 2018, Salvini announced the government would conduct a census of Romani people in Italy for the purpose of deporting all who are not in the country legally.[9][131][132][133] However this measure was criticized as unconstitutional and was opposed by all the oppositions and also by some members of the M5S.[134]

Salvini has frequently mentioned the murder of Pamela Mastropietro, a young women believed to have been killed in January 2018 by Nigerian immigrants.[135]

On 24 September 2018, the Council of Ministers approved the so-called "Salvini decree", which contained a series of hardline measures that will see the Italian government abolish key forms of protection for migrants and make it easier for them to be deported. The decree will also suspend the refugee application process of those who are considered "socially dangerous" or who have been convicted of a crime.[136]

Political views

Salvini has been described as hard Eurosceptic, holding starkly critical view of the European Union (EU), especially of the euro, which he once described as a "crime against humanity".[137] Salvini is also opposed to illegal immigration into Italy and the EU and the EU's management of asylum seekers.[138][139] His political views have been described as on the far-right,[14][140] espousing policies such as, among others, collecting census data on and expelling members of the Roma community living illegally in Italy.[9]

On economic issues, he supports a flat tax, tax cuts, fiscal federalism, protectionism,[141] and, to some extent, agrarianism.[citation needed] On social issues, Salvini opposes same-sex marriage, while he supports family values and the legalisation of brothels.[142] In foreign policy he opposed the international embargo against Russia of 2014,[143][144] supported the 2017–18 Saudi-led blockade of Qatar,[145] supported recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,[146] and supported an economic opening to Eastern Europe and to countries of the Far East such as North Korea.[147][148] In the wake of the Enrica Lexie case, Salvini called for the expulsion of the Indian Ambassador to Italy and a military operation to extract the two detained Italian marines.[149][150] Salvini has criticized mandatory vaccination laws.[151]

Salvini also endorsed the Republican candidate to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump, whom he met in April 2016 in Philadelphia.[152] Multiple news agencies have compared him and his views to those of Trump.[153][154] In September 2018, Salvini pledged his support for The Movement, a European populist group being founded by Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon.[155]

Personal life

In 2001 Matteo Salvini married Fabrizia Ieluzzi, a journalist who worked for a private radio station, by whom he had one child Federico in 2003.[21] After his divorce he had a daughter, Mirta, by his domestic partner Giulia Martinelli in 2012.[156] He later became engaged to Elisa Isoardi, a popular TV host.[157] After a relationship of nearly 3 years, Isoardi announced their split in November 2018 via an Instagram post.[158]

Salvini is an avid supporter of A.C. Milan.[159]

See also


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External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Roberto Maroni
Leader of the Lega Nord
Political offices
Preceded by
Angelino Alfano
Deputy Prime Minister of Italy
Served alongside: Luigi Di Maio
Preceded by
Marco Minniti
Minister of the Interior