Berlusconi and Salvini parties join forces

Berlusconi and Salvini parties join forces
Silvio Berlusconi's party will join up with that of Matteo Salvini (R). Photos: Jim Watson/AFP and Marco Bertorello/AFP (R)
Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party has joined forces with the Northern League, led by Matteo Salvini, in an attempt to win right-wing seats in May’s regional elections.

The agreement sees Forza Italia giving its backing to the Northern League’s Luca Zaia in the Veneto region, while in turn winning backing for its party candidate, Giovanni Toti, in Liguria.

Salvini said the deal was necessary in order to win in Veneto and “stand a united chance in Liguria” on May 31st.

“I’m proud of my League and if allies ask us to take a step backwards to win, we’ll do it,” he was quoted in Rai News as saying.

The plans see Salvini’s deputy, Edoardo Rixi, give up his chance to become governor of Liguria. Elsewhere in the country, both parties will back Claudio Ricci in the Umbria region.

The Northern League will not run in the southern Campania region, while the party and Forza Italia will present separate lists in other regions.

The deal in Veneto and Liguria reflects the parties’ tacit admission that they lack the strength to alone challenge the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

Forza Italia and the Northern League have a history of collaborating and forming coalition governments together, although falling support for Berlusconi has seen his former junior partner gain strength.

A poll last month found Salvini’s approval rating reach 27 percent, compared to just 16 percent for Berlusconi. The duo have tough competition from Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who in the Piepoli Institute poll won an approval rating of 48 percent.

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