Italy: Salvini faces calls to quit as League chief after dismal election results

The leader of Italy’s far-right League, Matteo Salvini, is facing calls to resign from senior figures within his party after a dramatic fall in its support in Sunday’s general election that saw it routed in its northern heartlands.

The party is a member of fellow far-right leader Giorgia Meloni’s triumphant coalition, but its share of the vote fell to 9% – an abysmal result for a party that in 2019 was polling at almost 40%.

“It’s time for a new leader,” Roberto Maroni, a former head of the League and ex-Lombardy governor, wrote in a column for the daily newspaper Il Foglio. “I know who should be elected as the new party secretary. But I’m not naming names, for now.”

His call came amid reports in the Italian press that Salvini will not be reappointed interior minister by Meloni, a role he had held from 2018 to 2019 while in coalition with the Five Star Movement and used to attempt to block migrants from landing in Italian ports.

The reports suggested that Meloni had decided to give the interior minister’s portfolio to a member of her Brothers of Italy in light of the League’s disappointing electoral result and offer Salvini’s League a more marginal role.

“The era of Salvini’s leadership of the League is over,” said Roberto Castelli, a former justice minister and League leader.

Former leaders of the League and thousands of supporters accuse Salvini of having distorted the party and its regional roots in a bid to make it a national force.

The Northern League, founded in 1989, aimed to assert the interests of northern Italy but in the course of his leadership, Salvini transformed it by abandoning the old autonomist and secessionist claims and embracing the sovereignist and populist currents of the contemporary far right.

Calls for Salvini’s resignation follow another disappointing result for the party: the once-secessionist Northern League leader, Umberto Bossi, on Sunday failed to be elected to parliament for the first time in 35 years.

Bossi, 81, was top of the League’s proportional ticket for the house in his home town of Varese but the party failed to gain a seat there, reflecting a poor performance, even in its northern heartlands, in the elections where the Brothers of Italy gobbled up much of the League’s former base.

Salvini has said he was not satisfied with the League’s election results but had no intention of resigning, saying the outcome had made him even more determined.