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ELECTION

‘Embarrassing conduct’: Anger in Italy after Salvini’s election doorbell stunt

Videos of Italian right-wing politician Matteo Salvini buzzing the intercoms of immigrant residents to ask if they deal drugs have gone viral, spurring wide condemnation and a diplomatic row.

'Embarrassing conduct': Anger in Italy after Salvini's election doorbell stunt
League leader Matteo Salvini on the campaign trail in Bologna. Photo: AFP

Salvini, the former interior minister and leader of the anti-immigrant League, opted for shock tactic during a visit to Bologna on Tuesday to shore up the vote ahead of weekend regional elections.

In the widely-circulated videos, Salvini – surrounded by cameras and a neighbourhood resident – rings an apartment building buzzer.

READ ALSO: Thousands rally in Bologna against far right ahead of regional vote

When a person answers, Salvini says he's heard that drugs are sold there and asks whether or not it's true.

After being hung up on, Salvini asks the crowd around him, “That was him? He's Tunisian?”
On Thursday, Tunisia's ambassador to Italy, Moez Sinaoui, told Italian newswire AGI he was “concerned by the embarrassing conduct” of Salvini, calling it a “provocation with no respect for a private residence.”

A protester in Bologna holds a sign bearing comments made by Matteo Salvini in recent years. Photo: AFP

Salvini is no stranger to provocation and drug dealing is a common refrain in his highly publicised media stunts.

He called the government “drug dealers” when parliament voted to approve the sale of a mild version of cannabis last year (though the bill was thrown out) and often ventures into the main piazzas of Italian cities saying he'll chase away dealers.

In the video Salvini buzzed the residence a second time, saying he wanted to “restore your family's good name because someone says that you and your son deal drugs.”

Italian media reported that the son had sought the assistance of a lawyer for possible legal action against Salvini.

“I'm not a drug dealer. I play football. In a few months I'm going to be a father,” said the young man in a video posted on La Repubblica, who said he was born in Italy to Tunisian parents. “Salvini better take that video off the web.”

An NGO, the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, called Salvini's actions a “hateful election propaganda move” and pledged any legal assistance needed.

On Twitter on Wednesday, Salvini said he did not regret his actions.

“I did well to buzz, I don't regret it at all, I don't care if drug dealers are Italian or Tunisian. Drugs kill. Whoever picks the League, picks the fight against drugs,” he wrote.

READ ALSO: How Matteo Salvini lost his gamble to become Italy's PM – for now

The right-wing populist League party is hoping to score an historic upset in Sunday's elections in the Emilia Romagna region, historically dominated by the left, where the right has recently made inroads.

Salvini's own party this week voted for him to stand trial over an alleged abuse of power while serving as Italy's interior minister last year – a move critics say is an attempt to position Salvini as a “martyr” ahead of regional elections.

Polls say the race is roughly tied with the Democratic Party (PD).

The League leader hopes that victory in Emilia Romagna could bring about the collapse of the current coalition governmentb, etween the centre-left PD and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, and spur a new general election – though Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said this won't happen.

 “Saying that the regional elections are a vote on the government is wrong,” he told Italian radio.

Member comments

  1. A politician listening to the people and doing something with them who would have thought?
    Residents are sick of these people destroying there lives.

  2. So getting a mob together and accusing some random Africans of being drug dealers with no evidence? This is what Italy wants to be?

    Racist ignorance.

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ITALIAN POLITICS

Italian government rocked by Five Star party split

Italy’s government was plunged into turmoil on Tuesday as foreign minister Luigi Di Maio announced he was leaving his party to start a breakaway group.

Italian government rocked by Five Star party split

Di Maio said his decision to leave the Five Star Movement (M5S) – the party he once led – was due to its “ambiguity” over Italy’s support of Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

He accused the party’s current leader, former prime minister Giuseppe Conte, of undermining the coalition government’s efforts to support Ukraine and weakening Italy’s position within the EU.

“Today’s is a difficult decision I never imagined I would have to take … but today I and lots of other colleagues and friends are leaving the Five Star Movement,” Di Maio told a press conference on Tuesday.

“We are leaving what tomorrow will no longer be the first political force in parliament.”

His announcement came after months of tensions within the party, which has lost most of the popular support that propelled it to power in 2018 and risks being wiped out in national elections due next year.

The split threatens to bring instability to Draghi’s multi-party government, formed in February 2021 after a political crisis toppled the previous coalition.

As many as 60 former Five Star lawmakers have already signed up to Di Maio’s new group, “Together for the Future”, media reports said.

Di Maio played a key role in the rise of the once anti-establishment M5S, but as Italy’s chief diplomat he has embraced Draghi’s more pro-European views.

READ ALSO: How the rebel Five Star Movement joined Italy’s establishment

Despite Italy’s long-standing political and economic ties with Russia, Draghi’s government has taken a strongly pro-NATO stance, sending weapons and cash to help Ukraine while supporting EU sanctions against Russia.

Di Maio backed the premier’s strong support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, including sending weapons for Kyiv to defend itself.

In this he has clashed with the head of Five Star, former premier Giuseppe Conte, who argues that Italy should focus on a diplomatic solution.

Di Maio attacked his former party without naming Conte, saying: “In these months, the main political force in parliament had the duty to support the diplomacy of the government and avoid ambiguity. But this was not the case,” he said.

Luigi Di Maio (R) applauds after Prime Minister Mario Draghi (L) addresses the Italian Senate on June 21st, 2022. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

“In this historic moment, support of European and Atlanticist values cannot be a mistake,” he added.

The Five Star Movement, he said, had risked the stability of the government “just to try to regain a few percentage points, without even succeeding”.

But a majority of lawmakers – including from the Five Star Movement – backed Draghi’s approach in March and again in a Senate vote on Tuesday.

Draghi earlier on Tuesday made clear his course was set.

“Italy will continue to work with the European Union and with our G7 partners to support Ukraine, to seek peace, to overcome this crisis,” he told the Senate, with Di Maio at his side.

“This is the mandate the government has received from parliament, from you. This is the guide for our action.”

The Five Star Movement stormed to power in 2018 general elections after winning a third of the vote on an anti-establishment ticket, and stayed in office even after Draghi was parachuted in to lead Italy in February 2021.

But while it once threatened to upend the political order in Italy, defections, policy U-turns and dismal polling have left it struggling for relevance.

“Today ends the story of the Five Star Movement,” tweeted former premier Matteo Renzi, who brought down the last Conte government by withdrawing his support.

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