tense end of campaign for Matteo Salvini in Italy

The far-right party of the Interior Minister, the League, is leading the voting intentions, but it is starting to retreat in the polls.

By Jérôme Gautheret Posted today at 10:20, updated at 10h21

Time to Reading 4 min.

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Italian Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini speaks at a conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 2 May 2019 in Budapest.
Italian Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini speaks at a conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on 2 May 2019 in Budapest. Bernadett Szabo / REUTERS

It began as a teenage provocation on April 25, at the end of a rally in the small town of Caltanissetta, in central Sicily. As after each of his political meetings, Matteo Salvini gracefully lends himself to an endless session of selfies. When the turn of two 19-year-old girls arrives, he takes one of their phones, grinning, and mechanically triggers the device, in this gesture that he repeats hundreds of times a day.

What he does not understand immediately is that these, on his back, kiss on the mouth. Forbidden, the Minister of the Interior puts a split second before understanding that he has just been trapped … too late.

In a few seconds, the photo spreads on social networks, accompanied by murderous comments on the homophobia of the leaders of the League. In the following days, incidents of this type multiply. In Salerno (Campania), an "admirer" who is shooting a video with him suddenly begins to ask: "It's good, we're not terroni ("bouseux") shit? ", in reference to the past excesses of the head of the League towards the populations of southern Italy. The young woman, taken to task by the minister's order service, categorically refuses to erase the recording, immediately broadcast on social networks. Others take advantage of the same circumstances to ask him when the League will reimburse the 49 million euros of misappropriated public money that claims the Italian justice …

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In other public meetings, police forces have been seen to be overly zealous in removing banners that are considered offensive. On Monday, May 13, firefighters in the small town of Brembate Sotto, in the province of Bergamo (Lombardy), even unfolded their large ladder to remove a banner from a balcony. "You are not welcome", considered insulting to the minister.

Change of atmosphere

Taken in isolation, these incidents are perfectly anecdotal. But their multiplication and their impact on social networks have contributed in recent days to a change of atmosphere. For the first time since the establishment of the coalition government between the League and the 5-Star Movement, in the spring of 2018, the narrative that the leader of the League seeks to impose, in a public bath and pose sessions falsely spontaneous, no longer seems unchallenged. Sign of the times, Matteo Salvini himself struggles to contain his anger. He who once taunted his opponents by sending them "big kisses" at the least opportunity loses more and more often his cool.

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