Italy: Salvini down but not out

5 September 2019
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Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy premier and interior minister since 2018, has been shut out of the Italian government after his gambit to force snap elections to become prime minister backfired.

As the de facto leader of Europe’s anti-mass-migration movement, Salvini’s departure from government may set back efforts to slow illegal immigration to the continent. Many analysts, however, believe that Salvini, who continues to lead his rivals in opinion polls, will be back in government soon and in an even stronger position than before.

On August 8, after months of public feuding, Salvini declared the governing coalition between his League party and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) unworkable. He accused M5S of blocking the League’s main policies and said that the only way forward was to hold fresh elections.

The League and M5S, ahead of an inconclusive election on March 2018, had been political adversaries. Three months later, however, they formed an unlikely alliance. Their June 2018 coalition agreement, outlined in a 39-page action plan, promised to crack down on illegal immigration and to deport up to 500,000 undocumented migrants.

Since then, Salvini has accused M5S of failing to implement parts of the coalition agreement. Tensions came to a head-on August 7, when, during a session in Parliament, M5S voted against a project supported by Salvini for a high-speed train link with France. “It is useless to go ahead with ‘no’s’ and quarrels,” Salvini wrote on his Facebook page. “Italians need certainty and a government that works, not a Mr. ‘No.’” Salvini called for new elections to be held on October 13.

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