Salvini Would Pick Populists Over Center-Left for Coalition

The leader of Italy’s Northern League would rather go into government with the Five Star Movement than the Democrats.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy's Northern League, gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 29, 2015
Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s Northern League, gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 29, 2015 (European Parliament)

Italy’s Northern League would rather go into coalition with the populist Five Star Movement than the mainstream center-left, its leader, Matteo Salvini, has said.

Speaking in Palermo on Monday, the conservative lamented that the Five Stars are “showing their incompetence where they govern.”

But, he added, “if I were to call someone, I wouldn’t call Renzi or Alfano” — referring to Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi and Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, the leader of the small center-right Popular Alternative.

Renzi’s Democrats are polling neck and neck with the Five Star Movement. Salvini’s Northern League is vying with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia to become the largest party on the right. Support for the Popular Alternative is in the single digits.

Salvini’s opportunity

Of the three big-party leaders, Salvini holds the best cards:

  • Polls give the Democrats and the Five Stars around a third of the votes each. Right-wing parties split the remainder.
  • Unless those numbers change, Renzi would need to do a deal with Berlusconi to return to power. Not impossible, but neither man’s first choice.
  • The Five Stars are unlikely to back either Renzi or Berlusconi (“old politics”). They might just be persuaded to support Salvini — or the other way around.
  • The Five Stars share Salvini’s Euroskepticism and have been willing to form alliances with right-wing parties in the European Parliament.