Italy’s Salvini praises right-wing parties’ success in Swedish election

Italy's League leader Matteo Salvini on Sunday rallied his hard-right support base ahead of general elections next weekend which are expected to bring his party back to power.

Italy’s Salvini praises right-wing parties' success in Swedish election
Matteo Salvini addresses League party supporters at a rally in Pontida, northern Italy, ahead of the September 25 general elections. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

“This is Italy, full of hope and dreams and looking to the future,” Salvini told the crowd in the northern town of Pontida, which has for three decades been the venue for an annual mass gathering of the hard right.

On Sunday the town’s main square was awash with the flags representing Italy’s provinces and the banners of the General Labour Union (UGL), founded in 1996 from the ashes of the neo-fascist CISNAL union.

READ ALSO: How would victory for Italy’s far right impact foreigners’ lives?

The League claimed 100,000 people had turned up, many bussed in to to hear Salvini speak, drink beer and buy T-shirts bearing Salvini’s name and the slogan “Italians first”.

Addressing the crowd, Salvini hailed the result of the Swedish general election, where he said voters “sent the left packing” as they ushered in an alliance of the right and far right.

Although Sweden hasn’t yet formed a new government, the recent election saw major gains for the far-right nationalist Sweden Democrats, a far-right party with roots in the fringe white supremacist and neo-Nazi movement.

The Sweden Democrats party rose to prominence with populist, anti-immigration messages similar to those of Salvini and his far-right coalition partner Giorgia Meloni, whose post-fascist Brothers of Italy (FdI) party was almost unknown at Italy’s last election in 2018.

The right-wing populist League is now trailing behind FdI, polling at 12 percent to their 24.

The League, FdI and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia form a right-wing coalition set to take around 46-48 percent of the vote altogether, which would allow them to form a government with a comfortable majority.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Who’s who in Italy’s general election?

League party leader Matteo Salvini speaks on stage on September 18, 2022 in Pontida, northern Italy, ahead of the September 25 general election.

League party leader Matteo Salvini speaks on stage on September 18, 2022 in Pontida, northern Italy, ahead of the September 25 general election. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

Salvini conceded Americans had rejected former US president Donald Trump and his cry of “America first” in favour of Democrat Joe Biden. “That’s democracy,” he said.

He said the League’s top six priorities were to curb soaring energy prices and develop nuclear power, give more decision-making powers to the regions, make tax and legal reforms, guarantee retirement at 41 years of service, and stop migrant boats landing on Italy’s shores.

Surveys suggest immigration is less of a concern for Italians than the rampant inflation squeezing already stagnant wages.

Formerly the Northern League, Salvini’s party has toned down its secessionist aspirations for Lombardy, focusing instead on railing against the European Union and immigration.

The League’s current estimated vote share of 12 percent would represent a notable decline from its performances in 2018 and 2019 as it participated in successive governments while FDI remained in opposition.

READ ALSO: Five ways Italy’s 2022 elections will be different

Salvini (R) on stage with Meloni and coalition partner Berlusconi at a joint rally October 19, 2019 in Rome.

Salvini (R) on stage with coalition partners Meloni and Berlusconi at a joint rally on October 19, 2019 in Rome. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP.

The eurosceptic FdI party, which has close ties to Hungary’s populist prime minister Viktor Orban, this week attacked the EU for threatening to suspend financing for Hungary.

The European Commisson on Sunday proposed suspending 7.5 billion euros in funds for Hungary while waiting for Budapest to introduce anti-corruption reforms.

The bloc has been at loggerheads with Hungary for months, with Brussels suspecting Orban’s government of undercutting the rule of law and using EU money to enrich its cronies.

In a television interview on Sunday, Meloni condemned “using the question of the rule of law as an ideological club to hit those considered not aligned”.

Meloni also criticised the EU’s policy towards Poland – another eastern member accused of flouting the rule of law..

Meloni is campaigning on a nationalist platform that calls for a “different Europe” with more powers for member states.

Salvini has also appeared sympathetic to Hungary’s leader, telling supporters on Sunday: “Orban has done some things right and made some mistakes”.

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EXPLAINED: What will a far-right government mean for Italy?

EU reform, 'flat tax' and welfare cuts - here are the main points of the joint programme agreed by the right-wing coalition that triumphed in Sunday's elections in Italy.

EXPLAINED: What will a far-right government mean for Italy?

The three parties that make up Italy’s so-called centrodestra, the right-wing coalition that has stormed the polls and is now expected to form a government with a large majority, campaigned on a joint manifesto that promised to slash taxes and put ‘Italians first’ – whatever the cost.

The contents of the programme were agreed in advance between Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy, Matteo Salvini’s populist League, and Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative Forza Italia.

Meloni’s success – topping the polls, well ahead of her allies – will likely affect how and if these pledges are implemented.

FdI is the most far-right of the three parties, so with them leading the government we can expect a focus on policies that align with its strongly nativist, conservative ideology.

Pledges made throughout the manifesto lack detail, but here’s an idea of what they’re promising to deliver once in power.

Economy and social policy

While the programme says Italy should make “full use” of the almost 200 billion euros ($193 billion) earmarked under the EU’s post-pandemic recovery plan, it also talks about changing the agreement with Brussels.

Italy’s previous government agreed to major structural reforms in return for the money, which Meloni’s party appears keen to renegotiate.

The manifesto says there are “changed conditions”, noting rising costs of energy and raw materials.

Gas stove.

The right-wing coalition has promised to protect households from soaring energy bills, though no concrete details have been given so far. Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

It calls for a reduction in the tax burden for families, businesses and the self-employed, including a flat tax for the latter. No detail was given as to how the parties plan to cover the cost of their vote-winning flat tax policies.

It pledges to abolish the citizens’ income, Italy’s first ever unemployment benefit introduced under the populist Five Star Movement. It’s not clear whether anything would replace it.

The programme also calls for a revaluation of the minimum pension, social and disability payments.

As inflation soars, there’s a promise to protect the purchasing power of families, workers and pensions, and reduce VAT on energy products.

Europe and Russia

Salvini and Berlusconi have long been close to Russia. Berlusconi last week caused outrage by defending his old friend Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, while Salvini has been highly critical of European sanctions.

Despite this, the programme emphasises respect for commitments made as part of NATO and support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion.

READ ALSO: Outcry in Italy after Berlusconi defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (2nd L) visit the Bakhchisaray Historical and Cultural Preserve in Bakhchisaray outside Sevastopol, Crimea on September 12, 2015

Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi is a long-time friend of Putin’s and has recently defended the Russian president’s invasion of Ukraine. Photo by Alexei DRUZHININ / Ria NOVOSTI / AFP

Meloni has backed the sanctions, and the sending of weapons to Kyiv – though in 2014 she voiced her support for Russia’s annexation of Crimea, so it’s not clear how credible her stance is or if it could change.

With Meloni and Salvini’s parties both eurosceptic, the programme commits to “full adherence to the European integration process” while seeking a “more political and less bureaucratic” bloc.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Is Brothers of Italy a ‘far right’ party?

It also calls for a review of EU rules on public spending and economic governance.

In line with FdI’s nativist stance, it calls for the defence and promotion of Europe’s “Judeo-Christian” roots.


Meloni and her coalition partner Salvini both rail against what they call a migrant “invasion”, with Meloni repeatedly calling for “naval blockades” to stop arrivals by sea.

The coalition pledges to create EU-managed centres in northern African countries to evaluate asylum applications.

Lega leader Matteo Salvini delivers a speech on stage on September 22, 2022 during a joint rally of Italy's right-wing parties Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d'Italia, FdI), the League (Lega) and Forza Italia at Piazza del Popolo in Rome, ahead of the September 25 general election.

Matteo Salvini, leader of the anti-immigration League, has always put the ‘Italians first’ motto at the centre of his party’s programme. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

When previously interior minister in 2019 Salvini brought in a controversial ‘security decree’ which has since been scaled back. But it appears that it will be reintroduced with him back in government, as the manifesto section on immigration is topped by a bullet point that simply reads “security decrees”.

READ ALSO: ‘I plan to leave’: Foreigners in Italy fear for their futures if far right wins election

Other somewhat vague objectives include “combating irregular immigration and the orderly management of legal flows of immigration” and “promoting the inclusion of legal immigrants socially and in the workforce.”


The coalition wants to change the constitution to ensure election by universal suffrage of the president, Italy’s head of state who is currently chosen by parliament.

While it looks like the coalition will not take the ‘super majority’ needed in parliament to push through such changes without a referendum, it could hold a vote on the issue.

READ ALSO: Italian elections: What’s the difference between a majority and ‘super majority’?

The programme also includes a reference to move towards more regional autonomy, which remains a key issue for Salvini’s League (formerly the Northern League).

It also calls for reform of the justice system to ensure the “reasonable duration” of trials – though judicial reform is already underway as part of the changes required by Brussels as part of the recovery fund deal.


Italy has a declining population and the coalition vows to support the birth rate with measures including free nurseries. 

It also calls for employment protection for young mothers, an increase in welfare payments for families, and support for families with disabled dependents.


The coalition promises, without going into detail, to crack down hard on petty crime, violence against women and the sale and diffusion of illegal drugs.

It also pledges to fight Italy’s mafias, as well as undefined “terrorism”, though it doesn’t explain how.

Energy and environment

It’s notable that the coalition only mentions energy policy at the end of its programme, and again in very vague terms.

A picture shows the control room of the Garigliano Nuclear Power Plant located at the outskirts of Sessa Aurunca, 160km southern Rome, on October 17, 2017.

Italy rejected nuclear power after the Chernobyl accident but a return to nuclear energy is now in the cards. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Energy and environmental issues have been almost entirely absent from the election campaign, despite Italy’s reliance on Russian gas being increasingly untenable due to the Ukraine war, and the increasing frequency of climate-related disasters such as the recent deadly flooding in Marche.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How much are energy bills rising in Italy?

The programme proposes Italy should begin producing “clean and safe nuclear energy”, without giving any explanation as to what this might look like.

Despite the fact that the Italian public rejected nuclear power twice, in 1987 and 2011, the League in particular appears to want to give it another shot.

The coalition also pledges to increase the production of renewable energy.

They say only that they will diversify energy supplies and implement a plan for energy-self sufficiency, including using Italy’s national resources, such as natural gas.