A can-do problem? Italian ‘sardines’ tackle Salvini


REGGIO EMILIA, Italy (Information) – Italy has had many colourful political symbols over time, together with oak timber, olive timber and daisies. Now, a brand new one has immediately swum into view and is posing an issue for far-right chief Matteo Salvini.

The common-or-garden sardine is the symbol of a nascent motion that’s difficult Salvini’s League occasion and seeking to halt his seemingly inexorable rise to energy – initially within the rich northern area of Emilia-Romagna the place regional elections are set for January, after which additional afield.

“We wish to present we are able to defeat the dragon of populism with concepts, with our brains,” stated Mattia Santori, 32, one in every of 4 younger Italians who dreamt up the so-called 6000-Sardines group.

The motion was born this month at a rally in Emilia-Romagna’s capital, Bologna. Santori and his pals hoped to attract 6,000 folks, however greater than double that confirmed up, packed like proverbial sardines in the primary sq..

Just a few days later, some 7,000 folks defied driving rain to carry the same rally in Modena, whereas on Saturday as much as eight,000 folks, many brandishing sardine placards, crowded into the elegant heart of Reggio Emilia to face as much as Salvini.

The sardines are usually not a political occasion and haven’t any intention of changing into one, however say they wish to stir Italians, problem the League’s abrasive, anti-migrant message that dominates social media and attempt to instill frequent decency in public debate.

“Lastly folks have come to their senses and are saying sufficient is sufficient,” stated Gaia Landini, 30, who works in schooling and attended the Reggio Emilia gathering.

“There may be a lot hatred on the market on social media. The League thrives off creating battle and we’ve got to face up and shout ‘No’,” she stated.


Operating alongside the fertile Po River Valley, Emilia-Romagna has been dominated by a succession of leftist events, beginning with the Communists, since World Struggle Two.

It’s holding elections on Jan. 26 and Salvini, whose rightist bloc received all 5 regional ballots that passed off in 2019, has promised to “liberate” the left’s historic fortress.

Salvini has dragged the League from the sting of extinction to turn into Italy’s largest occasion in simply six years, selling an uncompromising line on legislation and order, and promising huge tax cuts in defiance of European Union price range guidelines.

Critics say he promotes hatred along with his social media assaults on teams like unlawful immigrants, however his message has resonated in a rustic that has nonetheless not recovered from the monetary disaster of a decade in the past.

Protesters attend an indication held by “the sardines”, a grassroots motion towards far-right League chief Matteo Salvini, in Reggio Emilia within the northern area of Emilia-Romagna, Italy, November 23, 2019. Information/Guglielmo Mangiapane

Current Italy-wide opinion polls put him over 30% towards round 20% for the following largest occasion, the center-left Democratic Social gathering (PD) which governs in Emilia-Romagna and likewise cast a coalition authorities at a nationwide degree in August with the 5-Star Motion.

However Salvini has not but labored out a method for coping with the sardines and has held again from holding the type of every day avenue rallies in Emilia-Romagna that served him so properly in earlier regional votes, apparently deterred by the prospect of counter-demonstrations.

“Life could be very good Google all day to work out the place I might be after which to return and protest towards me. However I’ve religion we’ll win in Emilia Romagna,” he advised reporters final week at a e-book launch in Rome.


Much more is at stake in January than simply native politics.

If the PD sees its bastion fall, it might resolve to give up the nationwide authorities, viewing defeat as a vote of no-confidence in its argumentative, three-month coalition with 5-Star.

“If the League wins right here then it might show the ultimate straw that brings down the coalition,” stated Piero Ignazi, professor of comparative politics at Bologna College.

“The left has been dominant on this area for many years and has an extended historical past of fine governance. Defeat could be catastrophic for them and counsel Salvini is unstoppable.”

In elections to the European Parliament in Might, the League received 34% of the vote in Emilia-Romagna, whereas the PD received 31%. Salvini’s allies took a further 10% between them, which means they need to be within the driving seat within the January poll.

Nonetheless, the incumbent PD governor is fashionable in his area, the place unemployment is four.eight%, half the nationwide common, and newest polls give him a slight edge towards the proper.

Nothing could be taken with no consideration. Salvini seized one other leftist stronghold, Umbria, in October and the PD management has struggled to reply to a string of latest ballot-box beatings.

Santori, an economist, stated he believed most individuals have been against the League’s “Italy First” mantra and simply wanted bringing collectively.

“We’re like a shoal of sardines. There are way more of us than the sharks,” he advised Information.

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Though the motion goals to be inclusive and occasion banners are usually not allowed at its rallies, the tradition is clearly leftist, with crowds lustily singing the anti-fascist anthem “Bella Ciao” as autumn rains beat down on Reggio Emilia.

Its message has unfold quickly past the confines of Emilia-Romagna, and the group’s newly minted Fb web page already has a listing of 20 upcoming rallies throughout Italy and as distant as New York over the following three weeks.

“We now have to cease Salvini. It doesn’t matter in case you are pink, yellow, white or black. We should finish the politics of division,” stated Stefano Ferrari, 46, holding 4, handmade sardines pointing north, south, east and west.

Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Enhancing by Frances Kerry