In view of the upcoming European elections, Salvini has a disruptive strategy.
When the Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio after the March 4 elections proudly announced that Italy’s Third Republic would start with them, he couldn’t honestly imagine it would be somewhat true, but no thanks to themselves.
Indeed, while the Movement got immediately sucked up into its unsolvable, anti-ideological ineffectiveness, an old, irreducible right-wing political force and future coalition partner, the [Northern] League, had already planned how to cannibalize the scene and kick-start a new political season likely to affect not only the future of Italy, but also that of the whole of Europe.
By meeting the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban in Milan some days ago, Matteo Salvini has indeed officialized the international line of the Italian government, but also a new model of politics capable of creating exponential waves of support everywhere in the old continent.
This move was made easier by the fact that both his current and former allies, the Five Star Movement and Silvio Berlusconi (who ruefully ‘allowed’ the meeting), are too busy solving their internal contradictions, while the only opposition force left, the Democratic Party, is in a self-inflicted coma. Therefore, in Italy, Salvini had smoothed the road to reach a point where Marine Le Pen, who was once considered the frontwoman of the European nationalists, could not get.
In view of the upcoming European elections next year, for the first time a large founding member of the European Union is completely out of its historical aligment. But it’s not just that: in fact, Salvini was blessed by Orban, no longer a trojan horse in the European Popular Party, to lead a new so-called ‘Nationalist International’ and finally break the centrist Berlin-Paris axis: “he [Salvini] is an hero and we’re walking on the same path. We work together for a future alliance with the values that our countries and governments represent at its center, to wipe out the left and the pro-migrant policies supported by Macron.”
When Emmanuel Macron replied that they are right to consider him as their main opponent, he consciously relaunched the same bid he made against Marine Le Pen in 2017, on a larger scale. However, this time the challenge is way bigger, as the French political system of barrage helped him in a winner-takes-all dispute and Salvini, unlike Marine, put all of his eggs in the migrant crisis basket.
Indeed, some years ago, when the Northern League was still secessionist and almost disappeared from the electoral maps, he understood that in Italy, after the outbreak of the financial crisis and of the migrant crossings, there was a huge space on the nationalist right.
He consolidated the internal power and shifted first the electoral program towards the migration issues, abandoning the northerner dream without giving up autonomy policies. Tirelessy, he hit prime time talk shows every day and, through the social media, he exploited and commented crime news relating to foreigners. He bullied all the opponents, as these appeared increasingly weak in their human but empty rhetoric of ‘welcome refugees’, and played the role of defender of the Italians, hijacking the political debate on any other matter.
His tactic is pretty simple but effective, as he was the first one to cross the red line of fear with both feet and never looking back. A siren song that today is steadily at the top of the charts in the urban contexts and villages from Lisbon to Helsinki, but also in the chancelleries of European capitals. If you are not worried enough, just wait for May 2019 and see.