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Far-right leader Matteo Salvini speaks during a news conference in Catania, Italy, October 3, 2020. — Reuters pic
Far-right leader Matteo Salvini speaks during a news conference in Catania, Italy, October 3, 2020. — Reuters pic

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ROME, Oct 22 — Italy’s once-dominant far-right leader Matteo Salvini was embarrassed today by a secret recording in which he swears freely, pours scorn on a key ally and admits to losing “disgracefully” in polls.

In a recording from a closed-door meeting yesterday with lawmakers of his League party, Salvini calls fellow far-righter Giorgia Meloni of the Brothers of Italy party a “pain in the ass”.

Salvini also refers to the two rounds of local elections this month which saw right-wing parties lose mayoral races in Rome, Milan, Naples, Turin and Bologna.

“When you lose disgracefully, lagging by 30 points in some big cities, there is little to celebrate,” he says. “The centre-right’s split in two or three pieces certainly doesn’t help.”

The Il Foglio newspaper published parts of the audio of Salvini’s remarks, and an article on other statements he allegedly made, after a journalist infiltrated the meeting.

The League leader downplayed the incident, telling RAI public broadcaster that he had immediately cleared it up with Meloni.

“I can show you Whatsapp messages where Giorgia and I laugh and joke [about what happened],” he said on the Porta a Porta news programme.

Regardless, the faux pas was another reminder of the divisions within Italy’s right-wing bloc, which have been blamed for its poor recent showing in the mayoral votes.

While the bloc ran joint candidates in local contests, it remains split nationally, with Meloni staying out of the national unity government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

This has left her free to snipe at the government and gain in opinion polls, mainly at the expense of Salvini’s League, part of the cabinet alongside Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.

Before Draghi took office in February, the Brothers of Italy were polling at 16.4 per cent and the League at 23.4 per cent, according to the YouTrend website.

This week, they are at 20.5 per cent and 19 per cent respectively.

In the secret recording, Salvini says he does not expect early elections, which could materialise if Draghi were to be promoted to the Italian presidency early next year.

“There’s a year and four months to go” before the end of the parliamentary term, “and if anyone thinks we could have elections earlier, they are delusional”, he says.

With that in mind, Salvini tells right-wing parties to “stop shooting themselves in the foot”, otherwise it will be “complicated” to “miraculously” put up a united front in 2023. — AFP

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