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ELECTION

‘Embarrassing conduct’: Anger in Italy after Salvini’s election doorbell stunt

Videos of Italian right-wing politician Matteo Salvini buzzing the intercoms of immigrant residents to ask if they deal drugs have gone viral, spurring wide condemnation and a diplomatic row.

'Embarrassing conduct': Anger in Italy after Salvini's election doorbell stunt
League leader Matteo Salvini on the campaign trail in Bologna. Photo: AFP

Salvini, the former interior minister and leader of the anti-immigrant League, opted for shock tactic during a visit to Bologna on Tuesday to shore up the vote ahead of weekend regional elections.

In the widely-circulated videos, Salvini – surrounded by cameras and a neighbourhood resident – rings an apartment building buzzer.

READ ALSO: Thousands rally in Bologna against far right ahead of regional vote

When a person answers, Salvini says he's heard that drugs are sold there and asks whether or not it's true.

After being hung up on, Salvini asks the crowd around him, “That was him? He's Tunisian?”
On Thursday, Tunisia's ambassador to Italy, Moez Sinaoui, told Italian newswire AGI he was “concerned by the embarrassing conduct” of Salvini, calling it a “provocation with no respect for a private residence.”

A protester in Bologna holds a sign bearing comments made by Matteo Salvini in recent years. Photo: AFP

Salvini is no stranger to provocation and drug dealing is a common refrain in his highly publicised media stunts.

He called the government “drug dealers” when parliament voted to approve the sale of a mild version of cannabis last year (though the bill was thrown out) and often ventures into the main piazzas of Italian cities saying he'll chase away dealers.

In the video Salvini buzzed the residence a second time, saying he wanted to “restore your family's good name because someone says that you and your son deal drugs.”

Italian media reported that the son had sought the assistance of a lawyer for possible legal action against Salvini.

“I'm not a drug dealer. I play football. In a few months I'm going to be a father,” said the young man in a video posted on La Repubblica, who said he was born in Italy to Tunisian parents. “Salvini better take that video off the web.”

An NGO, the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, called Salvini's actions a “hateful election propaganda move” and pledged any legal assistance needed.

On Twitter on Wednesday, Salvini said he did not regret his actions.

“I did well to buzz, I don't regret it at all, I don't care if drug dealers are Italian or Tunisian. Drugs kill. Whoever picks the League, picks the fight against drugs,” he wrote.

READ ALSO: How Matteo Salvini lost his gamble to become Italy's PM – for now

The right-wing populist League party is hoping to score an historic upset in Sunday's elections in the Emilia Romagna region, historically dominated by the left, where the right has recently made inroads.

Salvini's own party this week voted for him to stand trial over an alleged abuse of power while serving as Italy's interior minister last year – a move critics say is an attempt to position Salvini as a “martyr” ahead of regional elections.

Polls say the race is roughly tied with the Democratic Party (PD).

The League leader hopes that victory in Emilia Romagna could bring about the collapse of the current coalition governmentb, etween the centre-left PD and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, and spur a new general election – though Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said this won't happen.

 “Saying that the regional elections are a vote on the government is wrong,” he told Italian radio.

Member comments

  1. A politician listening to the people and doing something with them who would have thought?
    Residents are sick of these people destroying there lives.

  2. So getting a mob together and accusing some random Africans of being drug dealers with no evidence? This is what Italy wants to be?

    Racist ignorance.

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Why Italy is fighting EU plans to limit vehicle emissions

Italy's government is leading a revolt against an EU plan for a green car transition, vowing to protect the automotive industry in a country still strongly attached to the combustion engine - despite the impact of climate change.

Why Italy is fighting EU plans to limit vehicle emissions

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s hard-right coalition, which came into office last October, tried and failed to block EU plans to ban the sale of new cars running on fossil fuels by 2035, which her predecessor Mario Draghi had supported.

But this week the government took the fight to planned ‘Euro 7’ standards on pollutants, joining with seven other EU member states – including France and Poland – to demand Brussels scrap limits due to come into force in July 2025.

READ ALSO: Why electric cars aren’t more popular in Italy

“Italy is showing the way, our positions are more and more widely shared,” claimed Enterprise Minister Adolfo Urso, a fervent proponent of national industry in the face of what he has called an “ideological vision” of climate change.

The EU plan “is clearly wrong and not even useful from an environmental point of view”, added Transport Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League party, which shares power with Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy.

Salvini led the failed charge against the ban on internal combustion engines, branding it “madness” that would “destroy thousands of jobs for Italian workers” while he claimed it would benefit China, a leader in producing electric vehicles.

Electric car being charged

Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

Federico Spadini from Greenpeace Italy lamented that “environmental and climate questions are always relegated to second place”, blaming a “strong industrial lobby in Italy” in the automobile and energy sectors.

“None of the governments in recent years have been up to the environmental challenge,” he told AFP.

“Unfortunately, Italy is not known in Europe as climate champion. And it’s clear that with Meloni’s government, the situation has deteriorated,” he said.

Low demand

Jobs are a big factor. In 2022, Italy had nearly 270,000 direct or indirect employees in the automotive sector, which accounted for 5.2 percent of GDP.

The European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA) has warned that switching to all electric cars could lead to more than 60,000 job losses in Italy by 2035 for automobile suppliers alone.

READ ALSO: Italians and their cars are inseparable – will this ever change?

“Since Fiat was absorbed by Stellantis in 2021, Italy no longer has a large automobile industry, but it remains big in terms of components, which are all orientated towards traditional engines,” noted Lorenzo Codogno, a former chief economist at the Italian Treasury.

For consumers too, the electric revolution has yet to arrive.

Italy has one of the highest car ownership rates in Europe: ranking fourth behind Liechtenstein, Iceland and Luxembourg with 670 passenger cars per 1,000 inhabitants, according to the latest Eurostat figures from 2020.

But sales of electric cars fell by 26.9 percent in 2022, to just 3.7 percent of the market, against 12.1 percent for the EU average.

Electric cars charge at a hub in central Milan on March 23, 2023. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Subsidies to boost zero emissions vehicles fell flat, while Minister Urso has admitted that on infrastructure, “we are extremely behind”.

Italy has just 36,000 electric charging stations, compared to 90,000 for the Netherlands, a country the fraction of the size of Italy, he revealed.

READ ALSO: These are the most (and least) eco-friendly towns in Italy

“There is no enthusiasm for electric cars in Italy,” Felipe Munoz, an analyst with the automotive data company Jato Dynamics, told AFP.

“The offer is meagre, with just one model manufactured by national carmaker Fiat.”

In addition, “purchasing power is not very high, people cannot afford electric vehicles, which are expensive. So the demand is low, unlike in Nordic countries.”

Gerrit Marx, head of the Italian truck manufacturer Iveco, agrees.

“We risk turning into a big Cuba, with very old cars still driving around for years, because a part of the population will not be able to afford an electric model,” he said.

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