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‘Now to change Europe’: Italy’s Salvini sets sights on EU elections after regional win over the left

‘Now to change Europe’: Italy’s Salvini sets sights on EU elections after regional win over the left
Italy’s government coalition partners have started separate fights for May’s EU elections, after recent regional elections saw a resounding victory for Matteo Salvini’s right-wing coalition at the expense of the left.

The deputy prime minister’s coalition scored 42 percent of the ballot in the southern region of Basilicata in local elections on Sunday, with 18.8 percent coming from Salvini’s League party supporter base.

It marked the end of center-left stewardship of the mainly agricultural region for the first time since 1995.

It also saw a sharp decline in local support for the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement (M5S), whose popularity in Basilicata halved from the 44.3 percent it gained in last year’s general elections, to hover just over 20 percent following last weekend’s regional poll.

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However, they still remain the largest party in the region. While M5S and the League are coalition partners in national government, the right-wing League partners locally with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the smaller Brothers of Italy party, with whom they are more ideologically aligned.

A jubilant Salvini thanked voters for their support on Monday tweeting: “THANK YOU! The League has tripled its vote in a year, victory also in Basilicata!”

“Goodbye to the left,” he continued, before proclaiming “now to change Europe.”

Salvini later assured his national partners that the he was happy with the current coalition, noting that the total support for the League and M5S was “still the absolute majority in this country.” He added: “My opponent is the (centre-left) PD (Democratic Party).”

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However, the surge of support for the League outside of its northern powerbase is a cause for concern for its national partner, M5S, who are also looking to turn voter frustration with Italy’s established parties into continued electoral success.

To this end, M5S have formed a new parliamentary group with several other reformist parties from Greece, Poland, Croatia, and Finland, ahead of the EU elections in May. 5 Star’s Luigi Di Maio, who is Italy’s deputy prime minister, sharing the position with Salvini, said the group draws its inspiration from “creating a new Europe.”

Evangelos Tsiobanidis, whose Greek Akkel Party has joined the alliance, told RT that the group is pro-European but would fight against the protectorate policies implemented by richer EU members at the expense of others.

“We oppose the present form of the EU. Pro-Europeanism, in fact, is the opposition to the current EU, with its corrupt disregard of national interests of all member states,” he said.

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