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Lega Nord (“Northern League,” a.k.a. Lega or the League) is a far-right populist Italian political party that rose to prominence in 2018 on policies of anti-immigration and “Italians First.”* Its leader, Matteo Salvini, views Italian culture and way of life as “under attack” and “at risk” due to mass immigration.* Ahead of Italy's March 2018 elections, the League promised to deport 400,000 immigrants and instruct asylum courts to disregard all circumstances of an applicant's journey to Italy.* The League received 17 percent of the vote in March 2018 parliamentary elections, and Salvini became Italy's interior minister.* Marine Le Pen, leader of France's far-right National Front political party, called the League's victory “the reawakening of the peoples.”*

Umberto Bossi founded the League in the 1990s to represent northern Italians. He campaigned on the idea of gaining independence for a northern Italian region he called Padania. In the latter half of the twentieth century, the economic gap widened substantially between the agrarian south of Italy and the industrialized north, and consequently, many southern Italians immigrated to the north.* Bossi began to blame southern Italians for northern Italy's economic hardships, regularly demeaning them as lazy parasites living off of hardworking northerners.* In 2012, then-League politician Donatella Galli posted on Facebook her desire for three of Italy's volcanoes to destroy southern Italy. She later stated that southerners “should be placed in ovens.”*

Salvini joined the League's youth wing as a teenager.* He took over the party's leadership from Bossi in 2013.* In 2014, Salvini expanded the party's reach beyond Italy's northern region and targeted Italy as a whole. The international news organization The Local dubbed him “the rising star of the Italian right.”* In May 2015 regional elections, the League received 20 percent of the vote in Tuscany. Salvini called the results “proof that the days are over when we were labeled as a crazy far-right party.”*

Nonetheless, the League has maintained its populist positions, casting the European Union as a threat to Italy's sovereignty while blaming immigrants and minorities for diluting the Italian identity. The League believes that the European Union has harmed Italy's economy. Salvini has derided the euro as a “German currency,”* labeling it a "crime against humanity."* The League's manifesto calls for Italy to exit the European Union unless all relevant treaties are renegotiated to restore Italy's “full and legitimate sovereignty.”* In 2009, Salvini called for “Milanese-only” train cars following reports of an increased immigrant population in Milan.* In September 2014, League politician Andrea Della Puppa posted a series of images to his Facebook account, including one of Adolf Hitler, suggesting that immigrants should be burned to death.*

In June 2018, Italy's Roma and Jewish communities condemned Salvini as racist after he called for a census of the Roma community in Italy. Critics compared the proposal to race laws under dictator Benito Mussolini.* Earlier in June, Salvini refused to allow a German NGO migrant rescue ship carrying more than 600 people to dock in Italy. Salvini tweeted that “Italy has stopped bowing its head to obey….”*

Salvini attempted to collapse the Italian government in August 2019 by pulling his party from the ruling coalition. He had hoped to become prime minister himself in new elections. Instead, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte pulled together a new coalition without the League. Salvini continues to serve in Italy’s parliament.* Salvini and the League have both seen their national poll numbers fall during the COVID-19 pandemic. In early June 2020, Salvini’s approval rating hovered around 30 percent while only 26 percent of Italians said they would vote for the League, decreasing from its 34 percent polling in Europe’s 2019 elections. Nonetheless, the League remained the single most popular party in Italy.*

European Ethno-Nationalist and White Supremacy Groups

Matteo Salvini took over the leadership of the League from founder Umberto Bossi in 2013.*

Italy

Facebook (Salvini), Facebook, Twitter (Salvini)

The League won 17 percent of the vote in Italy's March 2018 parliamentary elections, making it the third-largest party in parliament. League leader Matteo Salvini became Italy's interior minister in June 2018 and served in that role until August 2019.*

League founder Umberto Bossi castigated southern Italians and called for a separate northern Italian nation. When Salvini took control of the League in 2013, the party polled at 4 percent nationwide, below Italy's electoral threshold. Salvini ended the League's propaganda against southerners, instead promoting the idea of a united Italy that has been taken advantage of by the European Union. By 2016, the League was polling at between 16 percent and 17 percent.*

Both the League and Salvini maintain active social media accounts. As of June 29, 2020, Salvini's Twitter account had more than 1,300,000 followers, representing an increase of approximately 500,000 since July 2018.* Salvini's Facebook account had 4,266,811 likes as of June 29, 2020, almost doubling from 2,794,237 likes as of July 3, 2018.* The League's Facebook account had 741,475 likes as of June 29, 2020, compared with 437,731 likes as of July 3, 3018.*

The League is not directly tied to any violent activities.

Matteo Salvini
Umberto Bossi

Introduction

Lega Nord (“Northern League,” a.k.a. Lega or the League) is a far-right populist Italian political party that rose to prominence in 2018 on policies of anti-immigration and “Italians First.”* Its leader, Matteo Salvini, views Italian culture and way of life as “under attack” and “at risk” due to mass immigration.* Ahead of Italy's March 2018 elections, the League promised to deport 400,000 immigrants and instruct asylum courts to disregard all circumstances of an applicant's journey to Italy.* The League received 17 percent of the vote in March 2018 parliamentary elections, and Salvini became Italy's interior minister.* Marine Le Pen, leader of France's far-right National Front political party, called the League's victory “the reawakening of the peoples.”*

Umberto Bossi founded the League in the 1990s to represent northern Italians. He campaigned on the idea of gaining independence for a northern Italian region he called Padania. In the latter half of the twentieth century, the economic gap widened substantially between the agrarian south of Italy and the industrialized north, and consequently, many southern Italians immigrated to the north.* Bossi began to blame southern Italians for northern Italy's economic hardships, regularly demeaning them as lazy parasites living off of hardworking northerners.* In 2012, then-League politician Donatella Galli posted on Facebook her desire for three of Italy's volcanoes to destroy southern Italy. She later stated that southerners “should be placed in ovens.”*

Salvini joined the League's youth wing as a teenager.* He took over the party's leadership from Bossi in 2013.* In 2014, Salvini expanded the party's reach beyond Italy's northern region and targeted Italy as a whole. The international news organization The Local dubbed him “the rising star of the Italian right.”* In May 2015 regional elections, the League received 20 percent of the vote in Tuscany. Salvini called the results “proof that the days are over when we were labeled as a crazy far-right party.”*

Nonetheless, the League has maintained its populist positions, casting the European Union as a threat to Italy's sovereignty while blaming immigrants and minorities for diluting the Italian identity. The League believes that the European Union has harmed Italy's economy. Salvini has derided the euro as a “German currency,”* labeling it a "crime against humanity."* The League's manifesto calls for Italy to exit the European Union unless all relevant treaties are renegotiated to restore Italy's “full and legitimate sovereignty.”* In 2009, Salvini called for “Milanese-only” train cars following reports of an increased immigrant population in Milan.* In September 2014, League politician Andrea Della Puppa posted a series of images to his Facebook account, including one of Adolf Hitler, suggesting that immigrants should be burned to death.*

In June 2018, Italy's Roma and Jewish communities condemned Salvini as racist after he called for a census of the Roma community in Italy. Critics compared the proposal to race laws under dictator Benito Mussolini.* Earlier in June, Salvini refused to allow a German NGO migrant rescue ship carrying more than 600 people to dock in Italy. Salvini tweeted that “Italy has stopped bowing its head to obey….”*

Salvini attempted to collapse the Italian government in August 2019 by pulling his party from the ruling coalition. He had hoped to become prime minister himself in new elections. Instead, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte pulled together a new coalition without the League. Salvini continues to serve in Italy’s parliament.* Salvini and the League have both seen their national poll numbers fall during the COVID-19 pandemic. In early June 2020, Salvini’s approval rating hovered around 30 percent while only 26 percent of Italians said they would vote for the League, decreasing from its 34 percent polling in Europe’s 2019 elections. Nonetheless, the League remained the single most popular party in Italy.*

Leadership

Matteo Salvini took over the leadership of the League from founder Umberto Bossi in 2013.*

  • Matteo Salvini

  • Umberto Bossi

Base of Operations

Italy

Membership Size and Relevance

The League won 17 percent of the vote in Italy's March 2018 parliamentary elections, making it the third-largest party in parliament. League leader Matteo Salvini became Italy's interior minister in June 2018 and served in that role until August 2019.*

Recruitment and Propaganda

League founder Umberto Bossi castigated southern Italians and called for a separate northern Italian nation. When Salvini took control of the League in 2013, the party polled at 4 percent nationwide, below Italy's electoral threshold. Salvini ended the League's propaganda against southerners, instead promoting the idea of a united Italy that has been taken advantage of by the European Union. By 2016, the League was polling at between 16 percent and 17 percent.*

Both the League and Salvini maintain active social media accounts. As of June 29, 2020, Salvini's Twitter account had more than 1,300,000 followers, representing an increase of approximately 500,000 since July 2018.* Salvini's Facebook account had 4,266,811 likes as of June 29, 2020, almost doubling from 2,794,237 likes as of July 3, 2018.* The League's Facebook account had 741,475 likes as of June 29, 2020, compared with 437,731 likes as of July 3, 3018.*

Violent Activities

The League is not directly tied to any violent activities.

Rhetoric