Third article in a series on New European Nationalisms focuses on the Italian Northern League.
Lega Nord is a political party based in the north of Italy which prides itself on advocating for federal independence of ‘Padania’, a mythological nickname given to the Po Valley.
Founded in 1989 as federation of regional parties developed at local level during the 1980s, Lega Nord had an exclusive focus of protecting Italian economic and cultural interests, but it wasn’t until 1992 during Tangentopoli ‘Bribes-city’, that Lega Nord entered the main political fold.
Commonly referred to as il Carroccio after a four-wheeled war altar used by Northern Italy’s medieval republican cities against the imperialist Fredrick I Barbossa. Lega Nord declares itself against the taxing of the North and wasted resources that have come of those taxes, leading to Lega Nord championing the slogan Roma ladrona (Rome Big Thief).
Lega Nord’s original political agenda provided new propositions of fiscal federalism, state federalism, greater northern autonomy and outright secession to answer the Southern Question as the Mezzogiorno region’s failures to modernize and cope with organised crime. Over time, support of northern session has slowly faded and Lega Nord has focused on devolution and fiscal federalism, pushing for Northern Italy to keep more of its tax revenues. The growing importance of federalism as a political issue is what separates the party from other European nationalist movements.
Lega Nord has developed an extensive pull in Italian politics through the widespread integration of political parties and allegiances in the formation of political coalitions with Silvio Berlusconi which helped him into power for his first term in office in 1994 and during his additional terms as Prime Minister. There is an uneasy relationship between Berlusconi and Lega Nord, as Lega Nord has brought down Berlusconi’s coalition governments yet Mr. Berlusconi still places an emphasis on the importance of Lega Nord to win votes in the north.
The party declares in its constitution that once federalism is achieved, the organisation will dissolve. The Northern League has a self-proposed ‘federalist libertarian’ ideology but has a varying tone varying tones with a europeanism view and euroskeptial mentality and with respect to immigration and racist under tones but having minorities in their party.
The organisation is led by its controversial founder and leader Umberto Bossi, more known for his radical outbursts than his political rhetoric. Lega Nord has made headlines for its party-members irregular views and actions on and against immigration which has led to condemnation from human rights organisations and political opponents.
Lega Nord has transformed from a one-issue political party to an integral component of Berlusconi’s coalition governments. The party has become ingrained in the political fabric of Italy and will remain a major player until it reaches its federalist goal for the north of Italy. The people’s party widespread and often-times controversial views have allowed the party to have a substantial base in Northern Italy.