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16/10/2010 | Italy's Northern League. Not so grim up north

The Economist Staff

One party is doing rather well out of Italy’s political chaos.

 

THEY are everywhere, even on the “Keep off the grass” signs: 700-odd Alpine suns, symbols of Umberto Bossi’s Northern League, plastered across a school at Adro, a village in the Po valley that is the latest focus of a never-ending tug-of-war between the League and the government in Rome of which it forms part.

For almost ten years, starting in the late 1990s, the League and its dream of a free “Padania” (northern Italy) could be dismissed as outlandish. No longer. Since 2008, Silvio Berlusconi’s government has relied on the League’s votes in parliament. To ensure its continued support the prime minister promised this month to accelerate the implementation of “fiscal federalism”—the League’s ill-defined project for greater financial autonomy.

If, however, the government is brought down next year by divisions among its non-League elements, Mr Bossi and his followers should be the main beneficiaries of any resulting election. Polls show them increasing their share of the vote by half since the 2008 election.

As with many parties across Europe, the League’s anti-illegal immigration and anti-Islamic stance is popular. It is a Leaguer, the interior minister, Roberto Maroni, who has implemented Italy’s controversial policy of turning back migrants in the Mediterranean before they can apply for asylum. Islamophobia is rife in the League. Another minister, Roberto Calderoli, once walked a pig over land earmarked for the building of a mosque.

Yet the party’s xenophobia is in essence a by-product of Mr Bossi’s efforts to create a shared identity among the people he seeks to unite. “One way he does this is by setting up common enemies,” says Alessandro Trocino, co-author of a recent book on the League. “First, it was Italians from the south; then immigrants in general, now Muslims in particular.”

Mr Bossi’s message has proved increasingly attractive to traditionally left-wing voters. Indeed, their support was crucial to the League’s impressive showing in the 2008 election. “We are neither left nor right,” says Ettore Albertoni, a former speaker of the assembly of Lombardy, the region around Milan. The claim has some foundation; many of the League’s longstanding voters are both employers and workers—owners of farms, workshops and bars.

It would be ironic if next year, the 150th anniversary of Italy’s unification, became the League’s annus mirabilis. But Giuseppe Berta, the author of a book on Italy’s north, says, “The League is on the crest of a wave. That means it’s about to fall back.” The party, he maintains, has innate handicaps. It remains dependent on Mr Bossi’s charisma (undimmed by a stroke in 2004 that left him with impaired speech). Urban voters are put off by its populism, vulgarity (Mr Bossi recently described Romans as “pigs”) and mythologising (of an ur-Padanian Celtic heritage). Professor Berta says the League has yet to produce leaders capable of governing anything bigger than a town. Not everyone agrees. Mr Maroni is among the government’s most popular ministers. Luca Zaia, who left the cabinet in April, is seen as an effective governor of the Veneto.

Much depends on whether the League will achieve its fiscal federalism, and, if it does, how it uses its new powers. Mr Trocino believes that it suits Mr Bossi and his followers to have an eternally unfulfilled demand. “Remember Oscar Wilde’s quip,” he says: “‘When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers’.”

The Economist (Reino Unido)

 


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16/09/2009|
16/09/2009|
08/09/2009|
07/09/2009|
06/09/2009|
06/09/2009|
05/09/2009|
05/09/2009|
26/08/2009|
21/08/2009|
19/08/2009|
19/08/2009|
15/08/2009|
15/08/2009|
15/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
19/07/2009|
19/07/2009|
18/07/2009|
18/07/2009|
27/03/2009|
22/03/2009|
22/03/2009|
27/01/2009|
27/01/2009|
27/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
11/01/2009|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
23/11/2008|
23/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
22/08/2008|
22/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
24/05/2008|
24/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
29/04/2008|
11/02/2008|
05/01/2008|
09/12/2007|
18/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/09/2007|
26/08/2007|
25/08/2007|
11/07/2007|
16/06/2007|
16/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
24/04/2007|
24/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
28/02/2007|
28/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
17/11/2006|
30/09/2006|
28/07/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
06/03/2006|
21/02/2006|
17/02/2006|
31/01/2006|
10/01/2006|
28/12/2005|
31/10/2005|
26/09/2005|
29/08/2005|
11/08/2005|
08/08/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|

ver + notas
 
Center for the Study of the Presidency
Freedom House