Separatists big winners in Italian elections

04/15/2008, Foreign Policy:

Within the fragile coalition that has brought Silvio Berlusconi back to power, the big winner appears to be the Lega Nord, a separatist party that advocates federalism or even complete independence for Northern Italy (or Padania, as they call it.) The Lega won about 8.3 percent of the vote out of a total of 47 percent for Berlusconi's center-right coalition.

There's already speculation that the Lega will use its new influence to push for tougher immigration laws. The Lega has become known for its extreme anti-immigrant sentiment in recent years due to neighborhood patrols aimed at intimidating immigrant communities, racist campaign posters, and the inflammatory rhetoric of party leader Umberto Bossi, who once said that the Italian navy should open fire on boats carrying illegal immigrants. The party has already used its influence over Berlusconi to nix an idea he had hinted at during the campaign for giving immigrants the right to vote ...
Italy's Northern League resurgent, BBC News:
Italy's centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi won a return to power this week with a majority that - by Italian standards - looks very comfortable.

But he did so with the help of a formerly troublesome and often controversial right-wing ally, the Northern League.

The populist party almost doubled its vote, winning more than 8% nationally, and is expected to have several ministers in the new government ...

"Now we need reforms", Umberto Bossi, the party's colourful leader, told the newspaper La Stampa the day after the vote. "Otherwise we will lose patience." ...

Another of the League's big issues is immigration.

The party has played on economic and cultural fears in a country where this is a relatively new phenomenon.

Its position has often been expressed in crude terms, drawing charges of racism.

Mr Bossi triggered a storm in 2003 when a newspaper quoted him as saying that immigrants arriving in Italy by boat should be stopped by a cannon that "blows everyone out of the water".

The League leader said his views had been misrepresented.

Another of the League's top politicians, Roberto Calderoli, was forced to resign from the cabinet in 2006 after revealing a T-shirt on TV emblazoned with a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, originally published in Denmark, that triggered worldwide protests among Muslims ...

Martin Schultz, head of the Socialist group in the European parliament, said Mr Berlusconi's alliance with the Northern League represented a "real danger for Italy and for Europe" ...
March of Italy's 'BNP', Daily Mail:
... For Mr Bitonci is a member of the Lega Nord, or Northern League, the far-Right political party originally set up to campaign for the secession of northern Italy from the rest of the country.

But more pertinently today, the party is also deeply and vociferously opposed to the wave of immigration sweeping through Italy.

And it's on this ticket that Mr Bitonci has made something of a name for himself ...

So Mr Bitonci's aim, quite simply, appears to be to prevent any immigrants from settling there ...

Indeed, earlier this week, he was elected to the national Parliament, one of 60 Northern League MPs.

The party's success was unprecedented, their share of the vote doubling as support for popular Left-wing parties such as the communists and socialists collapsed ...

Indeed the League's controversial leader Umberto Bossi (he once called on the Italian Navy to turn its guns on boats bringing in illegal immigrants across the Mediterranean) now finds himself at the helm of the third largest Parliamentary party and a key prop to the incoming government of Silvio Berlusconi.

The result is that the Northern League is able to exert influence on Italian politics ...

Another Northern League politician went even further: "We are already at work on a new immigration law and it will be ready soon.

"Our borders have more holes in them than a gruyere cheese and through them illegal immigrants are passing - all at the expense and the patience of Italians.

"We no longer wish to be division two citizens in our own country at the expense of gypsies and non-European Union citizens."

What makes the situation in Italy of such interest - and, indeed, such concern - are the parallels to be found within British society.

One of the key motives that persuaded Italian voters to turn out for the Northern League was a fear of crime caused by immigrants.

In recent years there has been an influx of arrivals from Bulgaria and from Romania. Conservative estimates put the number of Romanians living in Italy at 550,000 (out of a population of 60 million), but statistics suggest they are responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime ...

Police statistics last year showed that they were responsible for more than 75 per cent of all crime in the capital, including 76 murders, 300 rapes and 2,000 robberies.

And of all the crimes attributed to these economic migrants, one in particular sent shockwaves through Italy.

One evening last November, 47-yearold Giovanna Reggiani was walking home in the suburbs of Rome, passing a shanty town of shelters erected by some 200 Romanian immigrants, when she was confronted by one of their number, Nicolae Romulus Mailat.

Having first repeatedly smashed a rock into her face, he slung the devout Roman Catholic over his shoulder and carried her to some wasteland where she was sexually assaulted and robbed of the £13 she had in her purse ...

As news of the attack spread, vigilante groups wreaked their revenge.

Four Romanians begging in the centre of Rome were beaten and stabbed, while immigrant shacks were torched the length and breadth of Italy ...

And so it came as little surprise that the Northern League was able to tap into such fears and to manu-facture an electoral triumph ...

"The Northern League grabbed the working-class vote and even white collar workers, a swathe traditionally more likely to back Left-wing parties.

"Put simply, Italians are concerned about immigrants; bluntly speaking, they just don't like them and they see them as a problem."

In Britain, similar tensions are bubbling away beneath the surface as communities across the country attempt to adapt to unprecedented levels of immigration.

Analysts fear the far-Right British National Party may win a London Assembly vote in next month's elections because of this increasing concern ...

Further, a new report by the Association Of Chief Police Officers warns that the scale and speed of immigration has led to problems.

It states: "EU migration has led to a surge in the exploitation of migrants and crime, including extortion, pickpocketing, human trafficking and a growing sex trade." ...

In Italy, Romano Prodi, the ousted Prime Minister, was seen to have failed in this respect, so leaving the door open for the Northern League.

During the election it produced a campaign poster that featured a picture of a glum-looking native Red Indian.

Underneath was written: "They were also subjected to immigration - now they live on reserves. Think about it."

This sense of an indigenous population under threat is felt nowhere more keenly than in the heartland of the Northern League - the Veneto, the region around Venice, where five million people live.

Over the past 12 months, it has almost been as if officials from pro-Northern League towns in the area have been attempting to outdo one another with their "solutions" for immigration.

As one academic here put it: "A competition is in progress for who can make the grossest proposal."

In Padua, the local authorities erected a wall around an immigrant community which it said was responsible for a prostitution and drug-dealing.

At Ardo, the mayor posted a bounty of £400 for anyone turning in an illegal immigrant ...

Another mayor called for a ban on illegal immigrants marrying, another to ban them from being eligible for school scholarships, another to limit Italian citizenship to foreigners with a perfect knowledge of Italian ...

But back in Cittadella, a town of 20,000 people, mayor-turned-MP, Mr Bitonci says that is not the point.

"The people of Cittadella and the whole of the Veneto are fed up with living in fear," he told me.

"Security was a key factor in this election and there are security fears because of illegal immigration.

"Virtually every house in Cittadella has bars on its windows as well as alarms ...

It is an "invasion" he says, with Romanians at its head.

"In the past we had the odd Moroccan, but now of the 20,000 population around eight per cent or 1,600 are immigrants - the largest number are the Romanians, followed by Albanians, Moroccans, Moldovans and Chinese," he says ...
The Israeli 'settler' serving in Italy's parliament, Haaretz:
"People feel that immigration is threatening their cities, their culture," Nirenstein explains. "Maybe it's exaggerated, but the residents of Florence, for example, think of their city as a temple for the works of art that were created there. When they see the steps of the Duomo filled with immigrants, they're in shock."

I lived in Florence. I remember Italy as a tolerant country.

"It's changed a lot. There are entire quarters that you can't enter at night. There's rape, there are assaults, there's drug dealing. There are schools for immigrants where they don't hang the crucifix. The immigrants have contempt for our culture. We gave them work and they scorn our values. There's a deep contradiction between the more radical Islam and Italy's values.

"The problem is that there is hardly any moderate Islam in Italy. Just the opposite. In Rome they built an enormous mosque. There are a lot of mosques in Italy, and very anti-Western madrasas operate in them. There's polygamy, there's wife-battering - it's very common. There's a father who killed his daughter for 'family honor.' It's logical that Italians would notice and that there would be reactions."
The troubling gains of Italy's Northern League, Eurotopics:
Umberto Bossi's Lega Nord party is no longer a protest party but a territorial party with deep roots in the north of the country. He points out that above all the many votes from workers who traditionally vote for leftist parties have helped the Lega Nord achieve a major success in the elections. "Rome, 'the predator', has become the hated capital of a state that the Bossis in the north no longer want. Only last November (2007), Bossi had said that 'slaveholders and colonialists' sat in Rome: 'I have 300,000 armed men ready to rebel behind me. They are prepared to give everything, and even to die.' ... That's the myth. It conceals right-wing extremist policies, xenophobia, and racism. 'The boat refugees who are polluting the Mediterranean should be shot at,' Lega politicians demanded. Lega troops are patrolling Veneto at night to 'do something about the foreigners and drug dealers'. And not long ago local 'leghisti' drove a pig on to a section of land where a mosque was to be built."
Alpine village sets pace in Italy separatist upset, Reuters:
CRESPADORO, Italy - Anger over Rome's taxes and fears about the impact of immigration are at the heart of why this Italian village has become an unlikely pace-setter in the electoral upset by the separatist Northern League.

Crespadoro, set among the tranquil Alpine foothills, gave the highest support anywhere, 53 percent, for the anti-immigrant League in polls this week ...

Umberto Bossi, firebrand leader of the League, who once suggested the navy should shoot across the bows of migrant boat people, scored about 8 percent in the vote, nearly double the level in 2006 elections ...

But the League's best showing was in Crespadoro's region, the wealthy Veneto, with its large number of immigrants. The tourist mecca of Verona alone polled 27 percent for the party.

Carla Cailotto, a Crespadoro city hall clerk and League backer, said the party had tapped into resentment against immigrants who had failed to integrate into Italian life.

"See, he's been here 10 years and still hasn't learned to speak Italian," Cailotto, 33, said after serving a turbaned, white-bearded Indian at the city offices.

About 14 percent of village residents are immigrants, mostly from South Asia or Africa, up from none in 1991, she said.

Crespadoro, about 90 km (55 miles) west of Venice, has also been hit hard by globalisation, especially the tanneries and marble finishing plants strung along its River Chiampo ...

"A political force that expresses a safeguard for work, a safeguard for the territory, is definitely one with an advantage" ...

Bossi, who once called the Italian flag fit for toilet paper, brought down Berlusconi's first government in 1994 after just seven months when he withdrew his support.

But he proved a loyal ally in Berlusconi's second term which ran for a full five years from 2001, serving as reforms minister until he suffered a stroke in 2004 ...
Italy's BNP 'will get key posts', Daily Mail:
Far right politicians are on the brink of taking key roles — including home affairs — in the next Italian government, they claimed yesterday.

The anti-immigrant Northern League, which critics have likened to the BNP in this country, surprised experts by winning 8 per cent of the vote in last week's general election.

Party leader Umberto Bossi said its posts in Silvio Berlusconi's new cabinet would include deputy prime minister, interior minister, reforms minister and agriculture minister ...

Roberto Maroni, who Mr Bossi said will be the next interior minister, yesterday applauded the idea of citizens' defence groups to prevent crime.

He dismissed fears about them taking the law into their own hands as "details which are secondary to people's lives" ...
Padania - the Foundations of a Nation:
This is a State which often defines itself as the "fatherland". Italian officialdom professes to teach us Padanians that we should regard ourselves mentally and emotionally closer to the inhabitants of the sothernmost islets off Sicily, than to, say, those of neighbouring Southern Switzerland, sharing the same mood of speech with Lombardy. How can we build a Europe of the Peoples on such an artificial basis?

In contrast to the Italian State which for 135 years has attempted in vain to define itself as a Nation, Padania represents a potential Nation in historical and cultural terms based on shared feelings and social and economic interests, though still subject to an arrogant colonial repression which by now has become intolerable.
A free Padania in a free Europe:

· 1990 German Unification
· 1991 Independence of the ex-Soviet Republics
· 1992 Independence of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia
· 1993 Separation of Czechoslovakia and the Independence of Slovakia and the Czech Republic
· 1995 Democratic Referendum for the Sovereignty of Québec
· 1996 Declaration of Independence of Padania

These dates summarize the contemporary process of the reawakening of identities. After having swept over what at one time was called the Third World during the period of decolonization, it hit the countries suffering under communist dictatorship. Today it has reached the heart of Western civilization, from Québec to Catalonia, from Padania to Flanders. With the fall of communist regimes and the twilight of the bipolar conflict, the peoples of Europe and the West are affirming their right to choose with whom they want to live and with whom they don't, with whom to unite and from whom to separate.
Declaration of Independence of Padania:
We are profoundly convinced that the continued presence of Padania within the confines of the Italian State would lead to gradual extinction of all hope of rebirth and the annihilation of the identities of its Peoples.
Welcome to Padania:
Small political movements campaigning in defense of local cultural traditions in the geographic area of North-Italy were formed after WWII, but they could never achieve remarkable success and change the course of Italian politics. On the other hand, tensions between North and South have always been smoldering and they exploded when the crisis of the State-run economy and the necessity of conforming our economy to the European standards made the burden of an unproductive South no longer tolerable for the North. The Lega Nord party was formed when the cultural and the economic demands merged; its symbol is a medieval warrior, in memory of the victorious struggles of the North-Italian Comuni for self-rule in the 12th and 13th Centuries. Local branches of the League are active in all Regions of the North: Valle D'Aosta; Piedmont (Turin); Lombardia (Milan); the Veneto (Venice); Liguria (Genoa); Trentino-Alto Adige/Süd Tirol (Trento); Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Trieste); Emilia-Romagna (Bologna); and also Tuscany (Florence); the Marche (Ancona); and Umbria (Perugia).

Padania is the name given to the geographic area of these Regions which are now struggling together as a federation to achieve cultural and economic independence.

The Northern League is the party which gives political expression to the federalist movement and proposes implementation of the federalist idea as a solution to the cultural and economic crisis.
Padania, the foundations of a nation:
With the weakness of the would-be Nation-States, historical regions and ethnic nationalities emerge

Historical regions, religious groups, and linguistic groups which have been part of single would-be nation-States, in some cases, for centuries (for example, in France and in Spain), and which centralist authoritarianism succeeded in repressing only superficially, are re-emerging. Padania's demands for autonomy confirm once again that our Peoples are the forerunners of fundamental movements in the most advanced parts of Europe. In spite of what the State-owned Italian mass media would like to make people believe, "localism" is not a sign of backwardness. On the contrary, the evolution and forward development of our movement is unstoppable. It is a European-wide phenomenon which the retarded and provincial Italian State, culturally and economically mired in the backwaters of Europe, cannot and wishes not to see for evident reasons of self-interest.

Many Western ethnic and regional communities demand recognition of autonomy within a framework of regional or federalist institutions, or else greater autonomy than is currently attainable, or even independence from their respective present-day States. The different demands ranging from full sovereignty to basic cultural autonomy correspond to the level of self-awareness and identity achieved up till now by the respective groups.

Consequentially, it is difficult to classify this movement into a single category. However, in its entirety, it reflects a need to re-affirm feelings of belonging common to all advanced industrial societies of Western civilization.

Padania, therefore, envisions a Europe of the Regions and of the Peoples; a Europe much different from the present one which, in many respects, is the result of compromises between States and international lobbies. This is why the Padanian movement can be the beginning of a general European transformation.
How Localism Might Save Europe, Paul Belien:
Like the parties in Catalonia and the Basque country, the Northern League (full name: Lega Nord per l’Indipendenza della Padania—Northern League for the Independence of Padania) is a regionalist, indeed separatist, party. Padania, in case you have never heard of it, does not exist as a nation; it is the collective name that the League uses to denote the various regions of northern Italy (such as Lombardy, Piedmont, Venice, Tuscany, South Tyrol, and others). The League is made up of several parties (including the Lega Lombarda, the Liga Veneta, the Alleanza Toscana) that want to restore to their regions the sovereignty that they enjoyed prior to the formation of the Italian State in the 19th century.

The success of the Northern League was the pivotal element in the victory of Mr. Berlusconi’s alliance. It enabled him to win an absolute majority in the Italian parliament. The League completely wiped away the left in the north. It doubled in size and won a stunning 8.3% of the national vote, sending 60 deputies (+37) and 26 senators (+13) to Rome. In some northern regions, it had the support of up to 50% of the electorate. This remarkable result, however, was not worth the consideration of The Economist, or of the rest of the European media. As they did not report on the League’s victory, they did not need to explain to their readers why the party had done so extraordinary well. Indeed, the international media preferred to lament the return of “the jester” rather than point out that the Northern League won so massively because of its forceful anti-immigration platform.

On Monday (21 April), the leftist Milanese newspaper Corriere della Sera wrote, “Fear boosted the Northern League’s vote, doubling and tripling its haul in front-line towns where local prosperity is undermined by thefts and burglaries. Unpunished crimes generate anger and people lose trust.” It is telling that even this leftist newspaper talks about “front-line” towns–-as if a war is going on—to describe the blue-collar areas around Milan where immigrants are making life unbearable for indigenous workers who no longer feel at home in their own neighborhoods. Roberto Mura, the League’s secretary for the district of Pavia and the mayor of San Genesio, 25 kilometers south of Milan, told the Corriere: “We struggle to shake off […] the image of the rough and ready, apolitical racist League militant. […] I know we’ve got to live with immigration, but the rules have to be respected. The League has been saying so for fifteen years. We’re now reaping the reward for the coherence and clarity of our project to defend the territory.”

As Mr Mura points out, the “apolitical” Northern League is in politics not for the sake of politics itself, but to “defend the territory.” There is something remarkable going on here, though it will never hit the mainstream media because the latter do not want to see it:

The most successful anti-immigration parties in Europe are regionalist/secessionist parties. They are “apolitical” because they do not particularly like politics. Their militants, members and voters do not like the state, they want to be left alone. They defend local communities that want to run their own affairs. They are parties of the land and the community, rather than the state. They are, as the media and the political establishment derisively call them, “populists.”

... The League is as opposed to Brussels as it is to Rome: it’s regionalist, restrictionist, and “Eurosceptic,” meaning that it doesn’t much like supranational mingling in local affairs.

Let us now travel from Milan to Brussels ... in particular in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern part of Belgium, where Brussels is situated ...

The largest party in the ... [Flemish] parliament is the Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) party. It represents a quarter of the Flemish electorate and is considered one of the most professional and successful of Europe’s patriotic parties. It is remarkably similar to the Lega Nord. It is separatist, in favor of restricting immigration and Eurosceptic.

The VB was founded in 1978 by Flemish nationalists aiming for the independence of Flanders. The Flemish provinces are the historic southern, Catholic half of the Netherlands. In fact, the Flemish provinces belonged to the Netherlands until the International Powers gave them to the newly created French-dominated state of Belgium in 1831. From the start, the VB warned against immigration by people from a culture entirely alien to that of Flanders; indeed, the VB was the first party to address the issue. It still demands that immigrants assimilate and, hence, that their numbers remain low enough to assure that this is possible. The party’s position is also that immigration from countries with a culture closer to that of Flanders should be given preference, but they have to adapt to the locals and learn the language of the Flemings, Dutch.

The VB is critical of immigration for exactly the same reason why it demands Flemish independence: because it wants to preserve Flemish national identity ...

... Today, Lorraine is the name of a province in the east of France. It is the province where Joan of Arc, France’s national heroine came from. However, contemporary Lorraine is only a tiny part of the Lorraine of old. In Lothar’s time, Lorraine comprised all the countries that lie between France and Germany today—the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg and Switzerland—plus the eastern part of present-day France, the western part of Germany and the northern half of Italy...

... as these regions lay on the periphery of their heartlands, generations of kings of France and Germany were never able to establish a firm rule over them. The result was that throughout the Middle Ages, and for some up to the 18th century and even today, the lands of Lothar, Old Lorraine, were made up of self-governing republics of farmers, independent counties controlled by burghers or city republics.

Self-governing, with little interference from greedy princes, their tax controllers and meddling civil servants, these lands became very prosperous. Capitalism has its origins here. This whole axis from Amsterdam in the north to Siena in the south developed into the economic spine of Europe. The former Carolingian Middle Lands saw not only the birth of capitalism but also of limited government. A decentralized political culture developed where the burghers governed themselves without caring much about faraway rulers.

Later, and gradually, French and German monarchs succeeded in bringing most of the regions of the ancient Middle-Frankish realm under their control...

To a large extent, however, the spirit of Old Lorraine lives on today in the lands of the former Middle Kingdom where citizens are still influenced by centuries of independence, self-reliance and adherence to a local identity that opposes centralizing authorities in far-away capitals.

In Switzerland, the only remaining sovereign part of Old Lorraine (at least until Flanders and Padania regain their independence), these feelings are so strong that the country stubbornly refuses to become a member of the European Union. Switzerland itself is a regionalist nation, made up of 26 provinces (cantons) that to a very large extent rule themselves. The country has strict immigration laws and the Swiss want to make these even stricter. The last elections, in November 2007, were won by the Schweizerische Volkspartei (Swiss People’s Party, SVP), which with 29% of the votes reinforced its position as the biggest party in the country. The international media describe the SVP as “far-right,” “populist,” “xenophobic” and “intolerant.” Like the Vlaams Belang and the Lega Nord, the SVP is localist. It combines a strong attachment to local communities with a clear affirmation of the right of these communities to “defend the territory” and preserve their own, traditional, ethnic identity.

Most of the regionalist parties in Europe, such as those in the Basque country, Scotland and elsewhere, are leftist. Except along the “spine of Europe.” These parties are the most successful of the parties of the European right. They have a localist quality, and yet they are fighting to protect the Christian, Western heritage of the continent as a whole. The SVP is currently campaigning for a referendum, on 1 June, to “stop mass naturalization” of immigrants. Italy’s new Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, comes from the Northern League and has announced “tough measures against clandestine immigration.” The VB, under constant harassment by the Belgian authorities, is working on a project to export its model to neighboring countries. Last January, the party established an international network called “Cities against Islamization,” in which it has aligned itself with local parties in cities along the Rhine—Pro Köln (Pro Cologne) from Cologne in the German Rhineland and Alsace d’Abord (Alsace First) from Strassbourg, the capital of Alsace, the French Rhine province. Like the VB, these parties defend local interests and oppose Islamization.

While France succumbs to North Africans and Germany to Turks, the parties from Old Lorraine, the spine of Europe, are preparing to fight for the preservation of their own identity. Owing to the massive immigration by people from an entirely different culture, many ordinary Europeans no longer feel at home in their own countries. Home is that cosy, often small, place where people feel safe among those whom they know and trust. The fight for the preservation of Europe is a fight for one’s own home, village, town, city, provence. That is why it is a localist issue.

Resistance to Islamization is not a matter of ideology, as one prominent American “anti-Jihadist” seems to think. The successful resistance in Europe has a provincial and an ethnic basis. It is about the right of the Europeans to hand their traditions, their identity, their cultural heritage down to their children so that the latter can continue to enjoy Europe’s ancient freedoms. The spirit of Old Lorraine has survived for 1,200 years. “Populist” parties in Flanders, Switzerland, Lombardia, Cologne and Alsace and other regions along the spine of Europe are popular for the simple reason that they are not prepared to let twelve centuries of capitalist self-reliance, self-governance and limited government fade away simply because foreigners are moving in with a spirit adapted to Arabian desert life ...

For the above parties this culture is precisely the culture of limited government, of the common values of Western civilization, the adherence to home. Is all this bad because it is indigenous rather than ideological?

(Paul Belien is a Flemish journalist and founder of The Brussels Journal, Europe’s leading conservative website. His wife is a member of the Belgian parliament for Vlaams Belang.)
"With the weakness of the would-be Nation-States, historical regions and ethnic nationalities emerge". Diversity fails again. Voters moving from the left to the right - how can it be?

See also:
- Why Become Independent to Give Up Sovereignty?
- Successful countries think small

Photos ...

A woman views a billboard advising fellow citizens to emigrate, in protest at what the town's mayor says is the government's soft policy on immigration in Montegrotto Terme, December 3, 2007. When the mayor of Cittadella, in northern Italy, issued new rules to keep the poor, homeless and unemployed out of his medieval town, the government branded the measure racist and discriminatory against destitute immigrants. Two weeks later, Cittadella's so-called "anti-drifter" ordinance has been adopted by another 40 town halls in the rich Veneto region, where anti-foreign sentiment is spreading fast in response to growing immigration, mainly from eastern Europe. The sign reads in Italian, "Citizens, emigrate ! You'll be better off by emigrating to other nations than being citizens in your own country." (daylife)

"before that it is too much late"

And, of course, you do need a Miss Padania pageant ...

This post is about to break so i will post some more photos of Italy's immigrant problem separately ...

Photos mostly from flickr.