The Rise of The Lega: A New Era of Right Wing Italian Politics


Italy, as we know it today, did not come into fruition until the year 1871. This recent unification data allowed for independent identities to arise amongst certain areas of Italy, with loyalties being to one’s city or region and less so top that of the modern nation. This historic and crucial trend across the Italian peninsula was instrumental in creating some of the most magnificent cities in the world, but the very same ideology that provided Italy with stunning architecture and culture has led feelings of division amongst compatriots, especially between some of those in the North and South of the country. From this rift was born the ever so infamous Lega Nord. Yet today, the Lega Nord does not advocate strongly for Northern independence but is well known for being the Italian political party against immigration and for creating the ever so infamous “Prima Gli Italia” rally cry. So, what exactly is the Lega Nord? Why has their party’s values shifted so drastically over its history and does their rise in popularity signify a frameshift in the minds of Italians to a more right-wing government reminiscent of the past?

The Birth of Lega Nord

The Lega Nord was founded in the year 1991 when Umberto Bossi, leader of the Lega Nord from 1991-2012, merged the Lombard League with other regional right-wing parties to create Lega Nord. Bossi’s party quickly grew in popularity becoming the “largest political faction in the country on the strength of its federalist message and distance from incumbent corruption” by 1994 (Tikkanen, 2018). Yet what Bossi is renowned for his anti-Southern sentiment. Bossi was a firm believer that the South of Italy was a cancer to the North and modeled his party around his beliefs. That the economic and cultural differences were so vast, that they were two different worlds in one nation. He went as far as to illegitimately declare the Republic of Padania in 1996. Fortunately for Italians everywhere, the motion for secession was not supported by many resulting in a limited scope in support across Italy, as naturally Southern Italians were not in support of a secessionist party, and neither was the majority in the North of the nation. This realization forced Bossi to slightly change his secessionist agenda to appeal to a larger voting audience from outright secession to advocating for regional autonomy and a hardline immigration stance. Under Bossi, the Lega Nord stood for the goal of Northern independence, that is until human nature leads to the Bossi’s demise.

Symbol for Bossi’s Lega Nord supporting the Padania Secessionist Movement, with the infamous Lega Knight next to the Padania symbol and a top the word Padania.

Change in Policy

Bossi was forced to resign as leader of Lega Nord in 2012 due to a scandal involving allocating funds from the party for his personal expenditures, of which he was found guilty in 2017 and sentenced to 27 months in prison. His successor Matteo Slavini had a different approach to his predecessor. Matteo Slavini did not believe that the North should secede from Italy, but rather support and Italian secession from Europe. For the League of Today the North is not a Slave to the South but rather “Italy is a slave to the European Union” (Barnes, 2018). Slavini even changed the ever so infamous name from Lega Nord to simply Lega, as Slavini did not see a divided Italy but a united common people being oppressed by Brussels and its policies, particularly regarding immigration. Matteo Slavini had drastically shifted the focus of the party from North vs. South to Us vs. Them, with Them being non-Italians. This anti-Brussels sentiment spurs primarily from an opposition to the pro-migrant policies of Brussels, believing that the liberal migrant policies of the European Union are mutilating Italy, her culture, and her identity.

Matteo Slavini advocating for an end to illegal immigration. His sign translates to Stop the Invasion Our People First.

This new policy adopted by the Lega Nord has seen the Lega Nord grow in popularity in Italy as Slavini had set aside the agenda of his predecessor, seeing Italians as one people occupying a single nation and not as two separate civilizations as Bossi had so rigorously advocated for. He has been so successful in fact that more young Italians than ever before have thrown their support behind right-wing parties. In last year’s election alone, amongst 18–21-year-olds, The Brothers of Italy party gained “23% support closely followed by … Lega with 22%” (TLDR, 2023). Slavini’s policies to preserve his nation’s solidarity have seen a surge in support by the Italian public over the recent years as increased Italians begin to share his right-wing sentiment, specifically regarding migrants and asylum seekers being one of Italy’s “most crucial issues” according to Humans Rights Watch (Roth, 2022).

Controversy and Xenophobia

Yet, Slavini’s Italy First policies have not only been successful in springing forth a nationalist identity in his quest to put Italian at the forefront, but an opportunity for xenophobic animosity to engulf the Italian populace. Putting a spotlight on illegal immigration and using it to untie through fear has birthed an atmosphere of hate, especially amongst extremist such as Luca Trani, who in 2018 shot six African migrants in Macerata as revenge for the murder of Pamela Mastropietro by the Nigerian failed asylum seeker Innocent Oseghale (BBC).

 Far-right hardline antimigrant rhetoric by Matteo Slavini sparking strong racist sentiment across Italy.

The Lega Nord believes that immigration has now threatened the whole of Italy, tearing the nation apart by its societal and cultural seams. In conjunction to this belief, they claim that foreign migrants are increasing crime rates going all the way back to the party’s founding when Bossi enacted the Bossi-Fini Law attempting to create a direct variation between the immigration into the country and need from the labour market. Bossi claimed that “cosmopolitanism is the malignant tumor of the third millennium” (Giordano, 2008). This aspect of the party has remained a core characteristic and has held true to this principle up to today. Though Slavini is no longer interior minister of Italy, his party’s popularity and policies are as prominent as ever.

2023 Italian General Elections Polling Results

Green- Lega

Red- Democratic Party

Dark Blue- Brothers of Italy

Coalitions and Party Relevance

To secure the party’s agenda, Matteo Slavini has allied himself and his party to the Italian Centre-right coalition. The Centre-right coalition is an alliance amongst right-winged Italian political parties to secure their votes go in support of a conservative party regardless of the winning party. Common members of the coalition include Forza Italia and The Brothers of Italy party. The center-right coalition was initiated In 1994 where two center right coalitions were created. One consisting of Forza Italia and Lega Nord and Pole of Good Government while the other consisted also of Forza Italia but with the National Alliance. In 2000, Lega Nord created a new alliance known as the House of Freedoms up until 2008 when it disbanded. Forza Italia and National Alliance banded together to become The People of Freedom and joined forces with Lega Nord and Brothers of Italy in 2018 for the general election. Matteo Slavini’s Lega Nord then in 2018 independently allied with the Five Star Movement entering in opposition to its former allies. Suffering a defeat in 2018, Matteo Slavini in 2022 threw his support behind the coalition to secure a victory in the general election placing Georgia Melloni and the Brothers of Italy in power. Today the Lega Nord plays its role as a supporter of Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy in the hopes that her government and its conservative values remain in power for the near future. Firmly allied with Meloni, Slavini threw his party’s support behind the new Prime Minister in the hope that she will enact policies that will prevent migrants from entering the country.

Matteo Slavini, Georgia Meloni, and other coalition members celebrating the 2022 election win


Lega, from its early days as a secessionist opposition party to becoming one of the most powerful and influential parties in Italy, has opened the door for an era of right-wing governed policies in Italy. So powerful that their support of their coalition mate was a key factor in securing Meloni’s win in the general election. Changing polices due to change in leadership directly resulted in an upswing in support and prominence amongst the world of Italian politics. Expanding its support base from select Italians in a few regions in the Po Valley to encompassing the entire nation the Lega, its allies, and its policies have secured a place in the history of Italy for the foreseeable future and only time will tell how history will tell of this time, the time of right-wing Italian politics and the rise of the Lega Nord.

Works Cited

“The Politics of the Northern League and Italy’s Changing Attitude towards Europe.” Taylor & Francis,

Perspectives on European Politics and Society,

“Italian Foreign Policy in the Post-Cold War Period: A Neoclassical Realist Approach.” Taylor & Francis,

European Security,

“Umberto Bossi.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.,

Fielitz, Maik, and Ozgur Ozvatan & Bernhard Forchtner. “The Transformation of the Northern League.” Fair Observer, 21 Aug. 2018,

Reynolds, James. “Italy Migrants Attack: Macerata Shooting Reveals a Bitter National Debate.” BBC News, BBC, 12 Feb. 2018,

“Centre-Right Coalition (Italy).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 7 Apr. 2023,

“Italy’s Salvini Vows Far-Right Alliance Will Last as Meloni Heads for Power.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 26 Sept. 2022,

Constantini, Anthony J. “Understanding Europe’s Shift to the Right.” POLITICO, POLITICO, 2 Dec. 2022,

YouTube, YouTube, 10 Apr. 2023, Accessed 23 Apr. 2023.

YouTube, YouTube, 28 May 2021, Accessed 23 Apr. 2023.

“World Report 2022: Rights Trends in Italy.” Human Rights Watch, 13 Jan. 2022,

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