Matteo Salvini (Italian pronunciation: [matˈtɛːo sɑlˈviːni]; born 9 March 1973) is an Italian politician and member of the European Parliament who has been the leader of the Lega Nord political party since December 2013 and of Us with Salvini (in Italian, Noi Con Salvini) since December 2014.
Matteo Salvini was born in Milan in 1973, the son of a business executive and a housewife. Salvini studied at the classical lyceum Alessandro Manzoni of Milan and later attended the University of Milan studying Historical Science; however, he never graduated.
In his youth Salvini became a member of the left-wing social centre Leoncavallo, which strongly influenced his political orientation before becoming the main representative of the right-wing faction of Lega Nord, the Padanian party.
Early political career
Salvini has been a member of Young Padanians Movement, Lega Nord's youth faction and deputy secretary of Lega Lombarda, along with Marco Reguzzoni. At the 1997 Padanian elections he was a candidate of the list Comunisti Padani (Padanian Communists).
He was elected a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the North-West region in 2004 and participated in the European Parliament as a part of the Non-Inscrits. He switched to become a member of the Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group in 2009 before switching back to the Non-Inscrits in 2014. In June 2015, he was part of the creation of a new group, the Europe of Nations and Freedom, with parties such as the French National Front and the Dutch Party for Freedom; he is also the vice-president of the Italian delegation.
He sat on the European Parliament's Committee on Culture and Education, and was a substitute for the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and a member of the Delegation to the EU-Chile Joint Parliamentary Committee. He stood down from the European Parliament in November 2006.
After he was re-elected in 2009 as an MEP, he sat on the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and is a member of the Delegation for Relations with India, and the Delegation for Relations with the Korean Peninsula. He is a Substitute on the Committee on International Trade and the Delegation for Relations with South Africa.
Federal Secretary of Lega Nord
On 7 December 2013 Salvini, who counted on the support by Roberto Maroni and most of the party's bigwigs (including Flavio Tosi, who had renounced a bid of his own), trounced Umberto Bossi with 82% of the vote in the "primary". A week later, his election was ratified by the party's federal congress in Turin. Under Salvini, the party embraced a very critical view of the European Union, especially of the euro, which he described a "crime against humanity". Ahead of the 2014 European Parliament election, Salvini started to cooperate with Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, and Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom. All this was criticised by Bossi, who re-called his left-wing roots, and Tosi, who represented the party's centrist wing and defended the euro.
In April 2014 Salvini presented the party's logo for the EP election, with Basta Euro ("No more euro") replacing Padania, to emphasize the new political trend, focused on Euroscepticism and the exit from the Eurozone. The party included in its slates candidates from other anti-euro and/or autonomist movements (hence Autonomie, meanining "Autonomies"), notably comprising The Freedomites, a right-wing populist and separatist party active in South Tyrol (whose symbol was included too).
In the EP election the party obtained 6.2% of the vote and 5 MEPs. The result was far worse than that of the previous EP election in 2009 (–4.0%), but better than that of 2013 general election (+2.1%). The LN arrived third with 15.2% in Veneto (where Tosi obtained many more votes than Salvini, showing his popular support once for all and proving how the party was far from united on the anti-euro stance), ahead of Forza Italia (FI) and the other parties emerged from the defunct PdL, and fourth in Lombardy with 14.6%. Salvini was triumphant, despite the party had lost Piedmont to the Democrats, after Cota had been forced to resign, due to irregularities committed by one of its supporting lists in filing the slates for the 2010 election, and had decided not to stand. Moreover, Bitonci was elected mayor of Padua, a Democratic stronghold.
The party's federal congress, summoned in Padua in July, approved Salvini's political line, especially a plan for the introduction of a flat tax and the creation of a sister party in central-southern Italy and the Isles. In November the Emilia-Romagna regional election represented a major step for Salvini's "national project": the LN, which won 19.4% of the vote, was the region's second-largest and far ahead of FI, paving the way for a bid for the leadership of the centre-right. In December Us with Salvini (NcS) was launched. The party's growing popularity among voters was reflected also by a constant rise in opinion polls.
On 28 February 2015, Salvini led a rally in Rome protesting against illegal immigration.
In March 2015, after a long struggle between the two main Venetian party's leaders Flavio Tosi and Luca Zaia, backed by Salvini, over the formation of the slates for the upcoming regional election in Veneto, Tosi was removed from national secretary of Liga Veneta and ejected from the federal party altogether. However, the 2015 regional elections were another success for the LN, especially in Veneto, where Zaia was handily re-elected with 50.1% of the vote and the combined score of party's and Zaia's personal lists was 40.9%. The party also came second in Liguria with 22.3%, second in Tuscany with 16.2%, third in Marche with 13.0% and third in Umbria with 14.0%. The LN had never polled so high in those five regions before.
After the 2016 local elections, in which the party ran below expectations in Lombardy (while doing well in Veneto—thanks to Zaia—as well as Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany) and the NcS performed badly, Salvini's political line came under pressure from Bossi, Maroni, and especially the recently elected leader of Lega Lombarda, Paolo Grimoldi, who criticized the party's right-wing turn and its focus on the South, while reclaiming the federalist and autonomist identity of the LN.
In the run-up of the 2017 leadership election Salvini looked focused on becoming the leader of the centre-right and, possibly, changing the LN's name by ditching "North". Paolo Grimoldi, leader of Lega Lombarda, chose not to run against Salvini (and Maroni maintained his neutrality), but Gianni Fava, Lombard regional minister of Agriculture in the old social-democratic tradition, announced his bid aiming at representing the federalist/autonomist/separatist wings of the party. Fava, who was anti-prohibition of drugs, pro-civil unions for same-sex couples and, like Bossi, anti-National Front ("[it] is one of the most centralist and conservative blocs in Europe, what has it to do with us?"), recalled an old activist saying "let's hurry up in making Padania, that I want to return voting the left" and added "this was the League and it has to be like this anew".
Matteo Salvini embraces a very critical view of the European Union (EU), especially of the euro, which he once described a "crime against humanity". Salvini is also quite opposed to illegal immigration, which has emerged in 2012 as a serious problem for Italy.
On economic issues, he supports flat tax, tax cuts, fiscal federalism, protectionism and, to some extent, agrarianism. On social issues, Salvini opposes same-sex marriage and the EU's management of immigration, while it supports family values and the legalisation of brothels. In foreign policy he opposed the international embargo against Russia of 2014 and supported an economic opening to Eastern Europe and to countries of the Far East such as North Korea.
In 2001 Matteo Salvini married Fabrizia Ieluzzi, a journalist who worked for a private radio station, by whom he had one child Federico in 2003. After his divorce he had another child, Mirta, by his domestic partner Giulia Martinelli in 2012.