April 15, 2008


The Right Returns (Sabina Zaccaro, Apr 15, 2008, IPS)

The Northern League won an unexpectedly high 8 percent of the vote. It was set up with the ambition of financially and administratively splitting the industrial north of the country from the rest, particularly the poorer regions of the south.

The group has a conservative, protectionist and anti-immigration policy.

The departure of moderate forces, and the growing weight of the nationalist Northern League, suggest that the new government will be shaped as a strong force to the right, with only a feeble counterbalance over issues like immigration.

"Concerns about security and immigration have certainly determined support for the League," Alfredo Mantica of the Alleanza Nazionale party allied to Berlusconi told IPS. Mantica is expected to take a leading position in the new government.

"Living in Milan, I know how much the northern population is worried about illegal migrants and the growing rate of criminality; they have repaid the League which based its electoral campaign on these issues," he said.

"Their (the Northern League's) message is strong...you probably haven't seen that in Rome, but their campaign posters here feature a Lakota Native American with his head-dress and with the text 'They were also subjected to immigration and now they live on reserves! Think about it'."

A recent poll conducted by the League in three northern provinces indicates that 40 percent of residents see immigrants as a threat to law and order. Forced removals are frequent in the north-east.

Mantica says proliferation of Roma illegal camps on the city periphery has exacerbated residents' concerns about crime and other problems blamed on illegal immigration, and the vote was an expression of these concerns.

Berlusconi now has to depend on Northern League support. "Yes, Northern League is not an easy ally, because of its radical views and the sometimes excessive tone they use," Mantica said. "But we have been governing together in the Lombardia region the last 12 years, and I know by experience that effective collaboration is possible."

Berlusconi has already indicated some League representatives who will take some key institutional and government positions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 15, 2008 7:12 AM
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