Salvini seeks to topple government in key Italian poll - GulfToday

Salvini seeks to topple government in key Italian poll


League's leader Matteo Salvini meets people during a campaign rally in Comacchio, Italy. File photo/AP

Italians vote Sunday in a key regional election which the far-right hopes will shake the country's fragile coalition government to its core and return strongman Matteo Salvini to power.

The wealthy centre-north region of Emilia Romagna has been a stronghold of the Italian left for over 70 years, but while left-wing values still hold sway in its cities, the right has been rallying serious support in towns and the countryside.

The last polls published before the pre-election media blackout showed the anti-immigrant League neck-and-neck with the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), which governs Italy in coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S).

Leader of Italy's far-right League party Matteo Salvini gestures as he speaks during a rally in Maranello, Italy. File photo/Reuters

Some 3.5 million citizens are eligible to cast ballots to elect the region's president between 7am (0600 GMT) and 11pm, alongside similar regional elections in the smaller southern region of Calabria.

The League hopes for a repeat of its historic win in October in Umbria, which had been a left-wing fiefdom for 50 years.

Its candidate in Emilia Romagna, Lucia Borgonzoni, 43, has been overshadowed by Salvini, who has held daily rallies and inundated social media with snaps of him sampling delicacies in the Parma ham and Parmesan cheese heartland.

Salvini infuriated the left Saturday by breaking the pre-election silence -- which under Italian law means candidates cannot campaign the day before a vote -- by tweeting about the "eviction notice" he was set to deliver to the government.

The PD's candidate Stefano Bonaccini is the incumbent president and is hoping to win for his track record in the region, which boasts low jobless figures and is home to "Made in Italy" success stories such as Ferrari and Lamborghini.

He may also benefit from the youth-driven Sardines movement, which was born in the region just a couple of months ago but has fast become a national symbol of protest against the far-right.

But analysts say many local family-run, artisanal firms are disgruntled and feeling left behind by the march of globalisation.

Others say the traditional left has abandoned those it once sought to defend for big banking interests.

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