Salvini Calls for Early Elections in Italy

The League leader Matteo Salvini gives a Jan. 26 press conference in Bentivoglio, Italy, near Bologna. (Stefano Cavicchi/LaPresse via AP)

ROME (AFP) — Italy’s far-right leader Matteo Salvini said Monday the government was making a hash of rebooting the country after the coronavirus pandemic and called for an early general election.

His anti-immigrant League is the most popular party in Italy, but has been in opposition since last year when Salvini pulled out of a coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement in a failed bid to rule alone.

Italians will head to the ballot boxes this autumn for regional elections and for a referendum on reducing the number of members of parliament The bicameral Italian Parliament has 630 members. The dates of those votes have yet to be set.

“Let’s ask the people to vote (as well) on a government that will last five years and has clear ideas,” Salvini said in an interview published Monday in the daily La Stampa.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s coalition, which is largely made up of the center-left Democratic Party (PD) and the M5S, is set to govern until 2023, though early elections in Italy are not uncommon.

“This government … must go,” Salvini said, adding that infighting within the coalition was paralyzing it.

Salvini, whose popularity spiked after he made illegal immigration his war horse, has been losing ground in the polls since the coronavirus pandemic hit Italy at the start of the year and the immigrant issue was put on the back burner.

The League was credited with around 35% voter support last summer, but has since seen its popularity decline to around 25%. It is followed in the polls by the PD, with around 20%.

© Agence France-Presse

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