Thousands rally in Bologna against far-right ahead of regional vote

Thousands rally in Bologna against far-right ahead of regional vote
People opposed to the far-right League party gather in Bologna to protest. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
Thousands of people rallied Sunday in the northern Italian city of Bologna, a leftist bastion targeted by the far right in elections this month whose fall could bring down the government in Rome.
They responded to the call of the “Sardines”, a movement launched in November to fight the far right, particularly the anti-immigrant politician Matteo Salvini, a leading member of Italy's previous coalition government.
 

According to the organisers, around 40,000 turned up for Sunday's event, a mix of music and speeches that was finishing Sunday evening with a rock and rap concert.

In the afternoon, crowds packed into Bologna's Piazza Otto Agosto carrying blue balloons and multicoloured version of the movement's now-familiar sardine symbol.

“We are here to say that an alternative exists,” one of the movement's co-founders, 32-year-old Mattia Santori, told journalists. Their hope was that their activities would translate into votes in the upcoming elections, he added.

Spokesman Lorenzo Donnoli told AFPTV: “I hope and believe that Salvini will lose and that will finally be a defeat that bring back serious politics.”

Salvini is campaigning hard for a far-right victory in the January 26 elections in Emilia-Romagna. That could lead to the collapse of the government formed by the leftist Democrat Party and the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement.

   
“This (regional election) will probably be a turning point for Italian politics,” Mattia Santori, one of the founders of the Sardines, told the Repubblica newspaper. “We have shown that we can do politics without low blows.” 
 
“We have already defeated populism. Salvini goes to the bars and does selfies. We fill up the squares.”
 
 
The Sardine movement was a response to the growing strength in the north of the right-wing coalition led by Salvini's League party.
   
In late October, the League won a historic victory in regional polls in central Umbria, a left-wing stronghold for half a century.
 
Salvini is now campaigning hard to try to capture the wealthy Emilia-Romagna region, also tradtionally a leftist bastion. Polls suggest the League's candidates are running neck-and-neck with the current centre-left governor.

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