Italians vote in 2 regions; Salvini eyes return to power

Italians vote in 2 regions; Salvini eyes return to power
Matteo Salvini of the League speaks to supporters during a campaign event in Bibbiano, Emilia-Romagna, Italy, on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (Stefano Cavicchi/LaPresse via AP)

ROME (AP) — Right-wing opposition leader Matteo Salvini is telling Italians who are voting in two regions to use their ballots to help his anti-migrant party return to national power.

Voting began Sunday morning in Emilia-Romagna, a northern region where the left-wing has held power for decades, and in Calabria, in the south, an area Salvini’s League party once disparaged as unproductive but where it now wants to expand a foothold.

Results, expected early Monday, of the voting for governor and regional legislatures could rock Italy’s squabbling central government in Rome.

Salvini is demanding an early election to end Premier Giuseppe Conte’s coalition government, whose junior partner is the center-left Democrats. Left-wing forces have ruled Emilia-Romagna for decades and a loss there could weaken the Democratic Party’s leverage in Conte’s government.

The senior party in Conte’s government is the populist 5-Star Movement, which has been plagued by infighting and defections.

Salvini in a Facebook post told Italians as they headed to vote to “liberate these splendid regions” from the Democrats and then “let’s free the entire country.”

Salvini, who in Conte’s previous government took a hard line against immigration, lost his job and his right-wing party lost its place in government last year when the League leader yanked his support in a failed bid for an early election. Conte then formed a government with the Democrats.