League leader pledges to put Italians first as election campaign intensifies

From Reuters - February 24, 2018

MILAN (Reuters) - Matteo Salvini, leader of Italys right-wing League party, drew thousands of supporters to a rally in Milan on Saturday as campaigning intensified ahead of a March 4 election expected to give most seats to a coalition of which his party is a member.

Salvini, 44, who has pulled the League away from its original aim to secure independence for the wealthy north towards euro-scepticism and opposing immigration, told crowds in Duomo square he would put Italians first.

Several other demonstrations took place in Milan and other cities on Saturday, some inspired by recent episodes of violence, including a shooting spree by a Nazi sympathiser which injured six Africans in the town of Macerata. [L8N1PT06V]

In Milan, police clashed with left-wing protesters who were trying to reach a rally of neo-Fascist group CasaPound, but a large march against racism in Rome proceeded peacefully.

Far-right group Forza Nuova (New Force), one of whose members was tied up and beaten by far-left activists last week, was due to meet in Palermo, Sicily on Saturday evening.

At the League rally, Salvini climbed over two barriers and forced his way though cameras to shake hands with people who chanted and waved flags before taking to the stage.

Those who choose the League choose a clear view, Italians first, he said, invoking economic problems which have hardened many Italians attitudes against immigrants.

With five million Italians in poverty, with three million Italians unemployed, I open the doors to my home, but not until these Italians have a house and a job.

Big rallies have so far been notably absent from campaigning to form Italys 65th government in little more than 70 years, with a new electoral law leaving the outcome highly uncertain.

In the final polls published a week ago, the coalition in which Salvini looks to be playing second fiddle to former prime minister Silvio Berlusconis Forza Italia was in the lead. [L8N1Q62ON]


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