Are we facing a true attack against democracy in Italy or is Salvini just trying to throw us off?
Silvia Di Noia
On May 20 Piero Fassino and Giuditta Pini (members of The Democratic Party) stood in front of the press in Modena to call to account the crime rates in Italy that the government brought. In particular, the aim was to discuss those issues in a parliamentary question. However, in the middle of that, the DIGOS (General Investigation and Special Operation Division) break into and attended it. As Democratica (the Democratic Party’s news website) stated “it’s quite unusual for the police to enter in a party seat and attend a press conference where their minister of reference was critiqued. That’s certainly not a good signal”; both ministers also stated that Salvini’s behavior towards oppositions is “poisonous”. What I wonder is, how “poisonous” is it? Are we facing a true attack against democracy in Italy or is he just trying to throw us off?
Before getting deep into the analysis we want to pursue, we should step back to the roots: how Salvini is communicating with his electorate (and with the opposition too). As we know, his social media team — led by the controvertial guru Luca Morisi — keeps portraying him in a very positive and reassuring light: in every single Facebook Live (as well as on Twitter) he shows himself smiling and, facing opponents, acts with a patronizing attitude, sending kisses and keeping a positive tone. Nevertheless, how does all of that is linked with the occurrence in Monza? Well, here we go down to the rabbit hole, to what he is actually communicating. The Northern League party secretary declared that he is inspired by order and discipline which, in their opinion, lack in Italy because of the Democratic Party past administration and must be restored. That is why he shouts aloud that those bad criminals should not pass Italian borders (even if it is still happening, but that is another issue) and in the meantime works against the Riace Project. That is why he bold prints campaign posters with former minister Carlo Calenda’s face on it and “he will not come [to Northern League rally]” and, when he eventually appears, ignores him, like a bad feed. That is why he declares to be open to confrontation but meanwhile he puts down all those banners that appeared around his rallies. He communicates positivity and, in order to show it, he tries to hide or remove what could work against him. In some aspects, he seems to be trying to replicate the social media bubble in real life, deleting “bad comments” through striking acts, which can be read as just a flamboyant way to propagandize what he says over what he actually makes.
Some actually point out that it is more dangerous than that. As we said, order and discipline are Salvini’s main topics when comes to politics, which happens to be directly linked to another political party: CasaPound (House of Pound). That is obvious because of both his communication and action, at least for those who consider this attitude dangerous. This issue becomes even stronger when comes to Northern League allies. On one hand, we have the Five Star Movement, which voted itself to justice and integrity, and which members (and secretary, Luigi Di Maio) are not pleased by this correlation; on the other hand, we have Forward Italy, which fiercely comments on their sovereign nostalgia, and Brothers of Italy which believe that they should not keep their power with Five Stars Movement. That is not all. Recently Roberto Maroni, former Interior Minister and member of the Northern League party, answering to an interview by L’Espresso, highlights that the party’s base does not know any member of his staff, in particular those who work on the financial side of the government. “Also” he said “I hope that this nationalist turn won’t foreclose the northern issue [the autonomy from Rome and the South]” which means that a good portion of voters still want to pursue the Northern League’s original intent.
All of those issues are interesting, in particular when we discuss over a party that has reached out 34% of the Italian voters on the last May 26, for the European Elections. Probably that’s why both sides seem so worried, and why some consider Salvini’s actions scary: that number, 34%, is pretty high, and means that the Northern League, through Salvini, could have a major impact on decisions against his ally, and that will make him more powerful, even if, in last year’s political elections, they reached only 17%.
So which is the answer? Should be scared by Salvini’s behavior? It is hard to say. As Myrta Merlino on the La7 television program L’aria che tira keeps saying in its promo “we are a country in a perpetual state of electioneering”, so every action, and word, and Instagram photo is meant to reach as more people as possible in order to reach as more voters as possible. Therefore, we will have to wait and see if that communication system will continue to work, and if those actions are really just blowing smoke or true facts to fight.