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Italy's League rallies in Milan as tense election campaign winds upSat, 24 Feb, 2018 | Posted By: The Times Of Earth (TOE)

Italy's League rallies in Milan as tense election campaign winds up REUTERS
Northern League leader Matteo Salvini drew thousands of supporters to a rally in Milan on Saturday as campaigning intensified ahead of a March 4 election expected to give most seats to a right-wing coalition of which his party is a member.

Salvini, 44, who has pulled the League away from its original aim to secure independence for the wealthy north towards euro-scepticism and opposing immigration, is counting on drawing up to 50,000 supporters to the rally in Italy's financial capital.

After arriving in a crowded Duomo square where supporters had been chanting "come March 4 we'll vote Lega," Salvini climbed over two barriers and forced his way though cameras to shake hands with people.

Big rallies have so far been noticeably absent from campaigning to form Italy's 65th government in little more than 70 years, with a new electoral law leaving the outcome highly uncertain.

"It's time to get off the Internet," Salvini had written on Twitter, a platform where much of the campaigning has been carried out, ahead of the event.

Several demonstrations are taking place in Milan and other cities on Saturday.

Not far from the central Piazza Duomo police clashed with left-wing protesters who were trying to reach a cordoned-off rally of neo-Fascist group CasaPound.

Earlier on Saturday, student protesters who had climbed a monument to Giuseppe Garibaldi, symbol of Italian unification, near the location for the CasaPound meeting, lit flares and waved an anti-Fascist banner, before being removed by police.


In Rome a large march against racism proceeded peacefully with several government members, including Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, present.

In the final polls before a blackout period kicked in a week ago, the coalition in which Salvini looks to be playing second fiddle to former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia was in the lead.

Alongside the smaller, nationalist Brothers of Italy, the group is set to get the most seats in parliament, but looks unlikely to secure a working majority without striking further post-election deals with other parties.

"Salvini is the ideal man for Italy ... the priority is to control the borders and then give a helping hand to the economy," said Claudio Gaiola, a 52-year-old electronics goods maker from Turin who sported a blue baseball cap saying "Salvini premier".

Violence has punctuated recent weeks, most dramatically when a man with declared Nazi sympathies shot and injured six Africans in the small town of Macerata. Far-left protesters and police scuffled in the northern city of Turin on Friday.

Far-right group Forza Nuova (New Force), one of whose members was tied up and beaten by far-left activists last week, plans a meeting in Palermo, Sicily.

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