The Lega Nord Back in Government

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Abstract

Following the 2008 general election, the Italian regionalist populist party Lega Nord returned to government as part of a centre-right coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi. Since then, the party has been able to thrive thanks to its holding of key ministries and its consolidation of 'issue ownership' over its main themes of federal reform and immigration/law and order. In this period, it has also made major gains in the 2009 European Parliament and 2010 regional elections. This article analyses the Lega's success since 2008 by considering the actions of the party (in particular the legislation it has sponsored and the narrative offered of its time in government) as well as the reactions of mid-ranking leaders and activists. The authors argue that, contrary to the expectations of scholars, populists serving as junior coalition partners are not necessarily destined to tame their rhetoric, face splits or see their electoral support decline. On the contrary, by focusing on selected themes and policies and adopting effective communication strategies, the Lega has continued to enjoy electoral success and seen its membership grow. The article concludes, therefore, that claims about populists being inherently unable to survive in government and enjoy success seem to have been premature.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1318-1350
Number of pages33
JournalWest European Politics
Volume33
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2010