|Founded||14 December 2017|
|Preceded by||Lega Nord|
Us with Salvini
|Headquarters||Via Carlo Bellerio 41, Milan|
|Youth wing||Youth League|
|National affiliation||Centre-right coalition|
|European affiliation||Identity and Democracy Party|
|European Parliament group||Identity and Democracy|
|Colours||Blue (official) |
|Chamber of Deputies|
133 / 630
62 / 315
24 / 76
|Conference of Regions|
5 / 21
219 / 897
Lega per Salvini Premier (English: League for Salvini Premier; abbr. LSP or LpSP), commonly known as Lega (English: League), is a right-wing populist political party in Italy, led by Matteo Salvini. The LSP was founded in December 2017 as the sister party of Lega Nord (English: Northern League, LN) and as a replacement of Us with Salvini, the LN's previous affiliate in central and southern Italy. The LSP extended the values and policies of the LN from northern Italy to the rest of the country and some political commentators have described it as a parallel party of the LN, with the aim of politically replacing it, also because of its statutory debt of €49 million.
Like the predecessor LN, the LSP is a confederation of regional parties, of which the largest and long-running are Liga Veneta and Lega Lombarda.
Currently the League is one of the largest parties in Italy: indeed it came third in the 2018 general election and first in the 2019 European Parliament election. Despite misgivings within the party's Padanian nationalist faction, the power base of the LSP is in northern Italy, where the party gets most of its support and where it has maintained the traditional autonomist outlook of the LN, especially in Veneto and Lombardy, the party's main strongholds.
Since February 2021, the League has been part of the coalition supporting Mario Draghi's national unity government and has provided three ministers, led by the party's deputy secretary Giancarlo Giorgetti, minister of Economic Development. The party also participates in 15 regional governments, including those of the two autonomous provinces, and counts five regional presidents, notably including Attilio Fontana (Lombardy), Luca Zaia (Veneto) and Massimiliano Fedriga (Friuli Venezia Giulia), who is also the president of the Conference of Regions and Autonomous Provinces.
Main article: Lega Nord § History
In 1989 Lega Nord (LN) was established as a federation of six regional parties from northern and north-central Italy (Liga Veneta, Lega Lombarda, Piemont Autonomista, Uniun Ligure, Lega Emiliano-Romagnola and Alleanza Toscana), which became the party's founding "national" sections in 1991. Umberto Bossi was the party's founder and later long-time federal secretary. The LN long advocated the transformation of Italy from a unitary to a federated state, fiscal federalism, regionalism and greater regional autonomy, especially for northern regions. At times, the party advocated the secession of the North, which the party referred to as "Padania", and consequently Padanian nationalism. The party always opposed illegal immigration and often adopted Eurosceptic stances, joining the Identity and Democracy group in the European Parliament in 2019. Throughout its history, the LN formed alliances both with centre-right and centre-left parties, but, in general elections, it was usually part of Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right coalition and, occasionally, ran as a stand-alone party (in 1996, gaining its best-so-far result: 10.1% of the vote). In the North several regions have been led by LN members, notably including Veneto (since 2010) and Lombardy (since 2013).
In December 2013 Matteo Salvini, a member of the European Parliament and former editor of Radio Padania Libera, was elected federal secretary of the LN, after having prevailed over Bossi in a leadership election. In order to revive a party overwhelmed by scandals and which had reached historical lows in the 2013 Italian general election, Salvini led the LN though dramatic changes, first by re-orienting it toward the European nationalist right. In the run-up of the 2014 European Parliament election, Salvini formed an alliance with the French National Front led by Marine Le Pen on the issues of Euroscepticism, opposition to immigration and souverainism. He also started a co-operation with CasaPound, a far-right organisation. In December 2014 launched Us with Salvini (Italian: Noi con Salvini, NcS), in order to put forward LN's issues in central and southern Italy.
In the 2017 leadership election Salvini was confirmed federal secretary of the party, defeating Gianni Fava, from the party's traditionalist wing. The May 2017 federal congress marked the "national" turnaround. In October 2017 Salvini announced that in the 2018 general election the party would be re-branded simply as "Lega" and would field lists also in central-southern Italy. On 14 December 2017 the "Lega per Salvini Premier" party was established by long-time LN member Roberto Calderoli and its constitution was published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale. LSP's official goals were the transformation of Italy "into a modern federal state through democratic and electoral methods" and the support of "the freedom and sovereignty of peoples at the European level". The party symbol was inspired from Donald Trump's campaign for the 2016 Republican Party primary election in the United States: a blue rectangle with the words "Lega per Salvini Premier" in white, surrounded by a thin white frame. A week later, during a federal congress, Salvini presented the new electoral logo: the word "Nord" and the Sun of the Alps were removed from the symbol, only the word "Lega" and the representation of Alberto da Giussano remained, while the slogan "Salvini Premier" was added.
In the 2018 general election, the League gained its best-so-far result of 17.4% of the vote, becoming the largest party within the centre-right coalition and establishing itself as the country's third largest political force. After the election, the party formed an alliance with the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), which had come first in the election with 32.7% of the vote. The so-called "yellow-green government" was led by Giuseppe Conte, an independent jurist close to the M5S, and notably included Salvini as minister of the Interior. Since the government's formation, thanks to Salvini's approval as minister, the party was regularly the country's largest party in opinion polls, at around or over 30%. In the 2019 European Parliament election, the League won 34.3% of the vote, winning for the first time a plurality of the electorate, while the M5S stopped at 17.1%. In August 2019 Salvini announced his intention to leave the coalition with the M5S, and called for a snap general election. However, after successful talks between the M5S and the Democratic Party (PD), the incumbent government was eventually replaced by a new government led by Conte. The League thus returned into the opposition, together with its electoral allies of the centre-right coalition.
During 2019, along with the LN's membership recruitment in the Centre-North, the party launched a parallel drive in the Centre-South for the LSP, practically supplanting NcS. Finally, during a federal congress on 21 December 2019, the party's constitution undwerwent some major changes, including reduced powers for the federal president (Umberto Bossi), the extension of the federal secretary's and federal council's terms from three to five years, the introduction of "dual membership" and the faculty given to the federal council to grant the use of the party's symbol to other political movements. With the end of its membership drive in August 2020, the LSP, until then present only in central-southern Italy, became active throughout Italy. The LN, unable to be dissolved because of its burden of €49 million debt to the Italian state, was instead formally kept alive, while its membership cards were donated to former activists.
See also: 2020 Italian regional elections
Salvini's popularity was supposed to create better chances for the League to continue its winning streak in regional elections (the latest in Umbria in November 2019) in Emilia-Romagna, a large region long-governed by the centre-left coalition. However, in the 2020 Emilia-Romagna regional election the party's candidate, Lucia Borgonzoni, stopped at 43.6% of the vote and was defeated by incumbent President Stefano Bonaccini (PD). The League's list obtained 32.0% and came second after the PD. The LSP, which had already peaked in opinion polls after quitting the yellow-green government, continued a slow decline in opinion polls and would be eventually eclipsed both by the PD and the FdI during 2021.
In the 2020 Venetian regional election Luca Zaia was re-elected for a third consecutive term with 76.8% of the vote and Liga Veneta fielded two lists, including the League's official one and Zaia's personal list, which obtained 16.9% and 44.6%, respectively. In the Tuscan regional election, League's candidate Susanna Ceccardi was defeated in her bid to become President of Tuscany. The fact that the League had grown electorally only in Veneto and had lost appeal in other regions started to weaken Salvini's leadership, which was more or less silently contested by the "centrist" wing of the party formed by Giancarlo Giorgetti, Zaia and all of the party's regional presidents, from Lombardy's Attilio Fontana to Friuli-Venezia Giulia's Massimiliano Fedriga, who would become president of the Conference of Regions and Autonomous Provinces in 2021.
See also: Draghi Cabinet
In January 2021 Conte's second government fell after losing support from Matteo Renzi's Italia Viva party. Subsequently, President Sergio Mattarella appointed Mario Draghi to form a cabinet, which won support from the League, the M5S, the PD and FI. The League entered the new government with three high-profile ministers from the party's "centrist" wing: Giorgetti, the architect of the party's pro-Europeanist turn and close friend of Draghi, as minister of Economic Development, Massimo Garavaglia as minister of Tourism and Erika Stefani as minister for Disabilities. The party's support for Draghi's government stood in contrast to its Eurosceptic stances.
In June 2021 Salvini proposed a federation with FI and other centre-right parties supporting Draghi (thus excluding FdI), which has so far went nowhere, as well as a campaign for six referendums on justice along with the liberal Radical Party. In February 2022 five of the six referendums were approved by Italy's Constitutional Court, opening the way for a popular vote by June.
The League is formally part of the centre-right coalition, along with Forza Italia (FI) and the Brothers of Italy (FdI). It is usually described as a right-wing or far-right party. However, Miles Johnson of the Financial Times, interviewing Matteo Salvini, pointed out that most Italian media consider the party as centre-right. Moreover, according to Antonio Polito, columnist for the Corriere della Sera and a former centre-left politician, the League is "at least half centrist, surely it is entirely centrist in Veneto and Lombardy, both as electorate and political culture of its governors". Differently from Salvini, the party leaders holding institutional offices, such as ministers like Giancarlo Giorgetti or regional presidents like Luca Zaia and Massimiliano Fedriga, are frequently described as "moderates", appealing to "centrist" voters and parties. The "far-right" label is rejected altogether by the party and, according to Salvini, "Italians are not a population of extremists, much less racists. We govern much of the country, and they would not vote for us if we were extremists. There is a lot of laziness on the part of the foreign press, because on the economic front we are absolutely liberal". In early 2022, two leading Democrats, minister Dario Franceschini and Goffredo Bettini, hinted that the League could re-affirm a "centrist" position and could again form a coalition government with the PD after the next general election. Anyway, this hypothesis was firmly rejected by the Democratic Party's secretary Enrico Letta, who considered the alliance with the League after 2023 "unrepeatable".
In home affairs, the League strongly opposes illegal immigration, especially migratory flows from the sea. It is highly critical of non-governmental organizations transporting migrants to European cross-border countries, as they are believed to be complicit in "human trafficking". Within Italy's borders, the League is skeptical of asylum requests and related reception centers and hopes for the deportation of irregular immigrants. It has tried to regulate some of the immigration issues through the so-called "security decrees".
While continuing to support autonomism, regionalism and federalism, under Salvini the League has gradually but decidedly set aside Padanian nationalism and separatism, which were long pursued by Lega Nord. Through souverainism, the party has also been making inroads in southern Italy. It is actually a matter of debate whether the League has embraced Italian nationalism and abandoned regionalism, or whether it combines nationalism and regionalism, similarly to the Ticino League in Switzerland.
In foreign policy, the party is strongly Atlanticist and pro-Israel, but has also supported friendlier ties with Russia and has long opposed sanctions against it.
Until 2018, the League expressed a strong opposition to the Euro currency and in the 2018 general election Eurosceptic professors Alberto Bagnai and Claudio Borghi were elected in Parliament for the party. Following President Sergio Mattarella's rejection of the appointment of Paolo Savona (who had expressed himself on a "plan B" for Italy's exit from the Eurozone) as minister of the Economy in Giuseppe Conte's first government, the League reviewed its opposition to the single currency.
In economic policy, the League supports the reduction of the tax burden and the implementation of a flat income tax at 15%, while opposing limits to cash payments. As a result, according to some sources, the party is distinctly "neo-liberal", while other observers have contested any such characterisation and the League would be torn between "economic liberalism" and "Keynesian economics". For instance, Giorgetti is usually considered a liberal, while Bagnai (the party's economic spokesperson) identifies as "post-Keynesian" and "left-wing populist".
Finally, on welfare, the League is one of the major critics of the increase in the retirement age envisaged by Elsa Fornero's 2011 pension reform and during Giuseppe Conte's first government got the approval of the so-called "Quota 100" (retirement with 62 years of age and 38 of contributions). Furthermore, the party opposes the citizens' income and regrets having voted for it in 2018.
The League partecipates in 15 out of 21 sub-national governments (Italy has 20 regions, one of which, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, is composed of two autonomous provinces with dinstict autonony and a seat each in the Conference of Regions and Autonomous Provinces: Trentino and South Tyrol). The following is a list of the most relevant local institutions led by party members.
|Chamber of Deputies|
124 / 630
|Senate of the Republic|
58 / 315
29 / 76
|Aosta Valley||2020||15,837 (1st)||23.9||
11 / 35
23 / 51
29 / 80
|South Tyrol||2018||31,510 (3rd)||11.1||
4 / 35
14 / 35
|44.6 (Zaia List)
33 / 51
|Friuli-Venezia Giulia||2018||147,340 (1st)||34.9||
18 / 49
14 / 48
6 / 30
9 / 41
8 / 31
10 / 21
4 / 50
10 / 31
2 / 21
3 / 51
4 / 49
6 / 21
4 / 29
8 / 60
1 / 70
((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)