“It would be a joy to be Italian Prime Minister”, says the League leader

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  • Italy holds national elections on September 25
  • Annual league party returns after pandemic hiatus
  • Salvini is behind Meloni in the polls
  • Autonomy promises for the regions, tax cuts

PONTIDA, Italy, September 18 (Reuters) – The right-wing League is aiming to win the post of Italian prime minister when the country holds elections next week, its leader Matteo Salvini said on Sunday at his party’s annual rally in the north from Italy.

A conservative alliance of parties, including the League, is expected to win the September 25 election by a wide margin. But it will likely be a bittersweet moment for Salvini who has seen his position as the undisputed leader of the right wing usurped by Giorgia Meloni.

“For me it would be a pride, a joy, a thrill to be chosen by you and President Sergio Mattarella as prime minister of this extraordinary country,” Salvini told thousands of flag-waving supporters at Pontida, the home spiritual of her partying.

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Meloni’s nationalist Brothers of Italy party is expected to garner around 25% of the vote, while the League is estimated at around 12%, up from 34% in the European Parliament elections in 2019.

Some League veterans have suggested Salvini could be ousted if the vote share drops further, but diehard supporters dismissed any talk of failure on Sunday.

“They may receive fewer votes but I am convinced that the centre-right will win (…) and since it is a coalition, they will all govern together”, declared Marco Mollica , a 39-year-old metalworker from Turin.

The League has returned to Pontida – where it held its first annual gathering in 1990 – after a three-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Party officials said a fleet of more than 200 buses and trains brought in around 100,000 supporters from across the country this year.

However, the crowd appeared smaller than in 2019, when 35,000 to 40,000 people were estimated to have attended, and two police officers told Reuters there were around 15,000 attendees.

The Northern League was originally rooted in the wealthy north, with then leader Umberto Bossi demanding secession from the poorer south. Salvini controversially removed the word “north” from the party’s name and pushed to create a national force – a move that upset many former faithful.

GUARANTEED USED

Salvini promised that if the League were part of the next government it would push for autonomy for the regions, giving them more say in how locally raised taxes are spent – something the nationalist Meloni sounded lukewarm about.

“Self-reliance rewards those who govern well and helps citizens because it removes the mask of talkers who leave their people in a hurry for years and say it’s always someone else’s fault,” he said. .

Salvini, 49, rebuilt the nearly crumbling party when he took office nine years ago, replacing old war cries of independence with the slogan ‘Italians first’ and replacing chants against Rome with insults directed at Brussels.

His strategy seemed to work, with the League forming a coalition government in 2018 and Salvini himself becoming interior minister. But a series of political blunders since then have put his ally Meloni ahead of him in the polls.

At the start of the rally, ministers and regional governors of the League made a formal commitment to give greater autonomy to the regions and to pursue reductions in taxes and energy bills. They also promised to lower the retirement age, stop immigrant arrivals and improve the justice system.

In his speech, Salvini pledged to abolish the 90 euro tax that Italians pay each year to finance the public television channel RAI and to revitalize small villages by turning them into a free real estate zone.

He also pledged loyalty to Meloni and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.

“Giorgia, Silvio and I have the same point of view on everything, almost everything, and for five years we will govern well together,” he said.

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Reporting by Federico Maccioni; Editing by Giselda Vagnoni and Alex Richardson

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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