Lega Nord


Lega Nord
Lega Nord
Federal Secretary Umberto Bossi
Federal President Angelo Alessandri
Founded 8 January 1991
Merger of Lega Lombarda, Liga Veneta, Lega Piemont plus other regional parties
Headquarters via Bellerio, 41
20161 Milan
Newspaper La Padania
Membership  (2008) 150,000[1]
Ideology Federalism,
Regionalism,
Padanian nationalism
National affiliation with The People of Freedom
International affiliation none
European affiliation EFA (1989–1994)
none (1994–present)
European Parliament Group Rainbow (1989–1994)
ELDR (1994–1997)
TGI (1999–2001)
I/D (2004–2006)
UEN (2007–2009)
EFD (2009–present)
Chamber of Deputies
59 / 630
Senate
25 / 315
European Parliament
9 / 72
Website
http://www.leganord.org
Politics of Italy
Political parties
Elections

Lega Nord (North League, LN, often translated as Northern League by English language media), whose complete name is Lega Nord per l'Indipendenza della Padania (North League for the Independence of Padania), is a federalist and regionalist political party in Italy founded in 1991 as a federation of several regional parties of Northern and Central Italy, most of which had arisen and expanded their share of the electorate over the 1980s.

In popular usage the party is generally referred to simply as Lega and is frequently nicknamed il Carroccio in newspapers, after a four-wheeled war altar drawn by oxen, used by the medieval republics of Northern Italy which formed the Lombard League in opposition to the imperialist design of Frederick I Barbarossa.

Lega Nord's political program advocates the transformation of Italy into a federal state, fiscal federalism and greater regional autonomy, especially for the Northern regions. At times it has advocated secession of the North, which it calls Padania. Prior to the party's adoption of the term, Padania was infrequently used to name the Padan-Venetian Plain and was promoted since 1963 by sport journalist Gianni Brera as a modern name for Cisalpine Gaul.

Lega Nord is by far the largest party in Veneto, the second largest in Lombardy, the third largest in Piedmont, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Emilia-Romagna and Liguria. The long-standing leader of the party is Umberto Bossi, who was Minister for Federal Reform in the Berlusconi IV Cabinet. Leading members include Luca Zaia, President of Veneto, Roberto Cota, President of Piedmont, Roberto Maroni, former Minister of the Interior, Roberto Calderoli, Roberto Castelli, Francesco Speroni, Marco Reguzzoni, Giancarlo Giorgetti, Gian Paolo Gobbo, Flavio Tosi and Federico Bricolo.

The founding parties of Lega Nord were Lega Lombarda, Liga Veneta, Piemont Autonomista, Uniun Ligure, Lega Emiliano-Romagnola, Alleanza Toscana, plus the newly formed regional parties of the other Northern regions.

Contents

History

Precursors and foundation

Umberto Bossi

At the 1983 general election one of Lega Nord's main precursors (and, later, sections), Liga Veneta, based in Veneto, elected a deputy, Achille Tramarin, and a senator, Graziano Girardi. At the 1987 general election another regional party, Lega Lombarda, based in Lombardy, gained national prominence when its leader Umberto Bossi was elected to the Senate. Since then Bossi has commonly been referred to as the Senatür, the word for "senator" in a number of Northern Italian languages – a nickname he maintained even when he was no longer a senator.

The party was formed in 1989 as the successor of the Alleanza Nord electoral coalition and was officially founded in 1991 through the merger of various regional parties, notably including Lega Lombarda and Liga Veneta. These parties continue to exist as "national sections" of the federal party, which presents itself in regional and local contests as "Lega Lombarda–Lega Nord", "Liga Veneta–Lega Nord", "Lega Nord–Piemont", and so on.[2][3][4]

The League exploited resentment against Rome (with the famous slogan Roma ladrona, which loosely means "Rome big thief") and the Italian government, common in Northern Italy as many Northerners felt that the governments in Rome wasted resources collected mostly from Northerners' taxes.[5] The unpopularity of Southern Italians and resentment against illegal immigrants were also exploited. The party's electoral successes began roughly at a time when public disillusionment with the established political parties was high. The Tangentopoli corruption scandals, which invested most of the established parties, were unveiled from 1992 on.[3][4] However, contrarily to what many pundits observed at the beginning of the 1990s, Lega Nord became a stable political force.

Lega Nord's first electoral breakthrough was at the 1990 regional elections, but it was with the 1992 general election that the party emerged as a leading political actor. Having gained 8.7% of the vote, 56 deputies and 26 senators,[6] it became the fourth largest party in country and Parliament. In 1993 Marco Formentini, a left-wing leghista, was elected Mayor of Milan, the party won 49.3% in the provincial election of Varese[7] and, by the end of the year, before Silvio Berlusconi launched his own political career and party, it was polled around 16-18% in electoral surveys.[8]

First government participation

The party fought the 1994 general election in alliance with Berlusconi's Forza Italia party within the Pole of Freedoms coalition. Lega Nord gained just 8.4% of the vote, but, thanks to a generous division of candidacies in Northern single-seats constituencies, its parliamentary representation was almost doubled to 117 deputies and 56 senators.[9] The post of President Chamber of Deputies was thus given to a leghista, Irene Pivetti, a young woman hailing from the Catholic faction of the party.

After the election, the League joined Forza Italia, National Alliance and the Christian Democratic Centre to form a coalition government under Berlusconi and the party obtained five ministries in the Berlusconi I Cabinet: the Interior with Roberto Maroni (who was also Deputy Prime Minister), the Budget with Giancarlo Pagliarini, Industry with Vito Gnutti, European Affairs with Domenico Comino and Institutional Reforms with Francesco Speroni. However, the alliance with Berlusconi and the government itself were both short-lived: it collapsed before the end of the year, with the League being instrumental in its demise.

In January 1995, the League gave a vote of confidence to the newly formed cabinet of Lamberto Dini, alongside with the Italian People's Party and the Democratic Party of the Left. This caused many splinter groups to leave the party, including the Federalist Party (which was actually founded in June 1994) of Gianfranco Miglio, the Federalists and Liberal Democrats of Franco Rocchetta, Lucio Malan and Furio Gubetti and the Federalist Italian League of Luigi Negri and Sergio Cappelli. All these groups later merged into Forza Italia. Also Roberto Maroni opposed the new course of the party, but after some months of coldness with Bossi, he returned to active politics in June. Between 1995 and 1998 Lega Nord joined centre-left governing coalitions in many local contexts, from the Province of Padua to the city of Udine.

Independentist years

After a huge success at the 1996 general election, its best result ever (10.1%, 59 deputies and 27 senators[10]), Lega Nord announced that its aim was the secession of Northern Italy under the name of Padania, an expression previously referring to the Padanian-Venetian Plain, but to which Lega Nord gave a geographically broader usage that has steadily gained currency, at least among its followers. The party even organised a referendum on independence as well as elections for a "Padanian Parliament".

The years between 1996 and 1998 can be considered the first golden age of the party, which was then the largest political force in many provinces of Northern Italy and was able to win in single-seat constituencies and provincial elections by running alone aganist both the centre-right and the centre-left. However since 1998 Lega Nord's electoral fortunes were reduced, primarily because of many splits, and especially that of Liga Veneta Repubblica in Veneto. By 1999 several leading members of the party, notably Fabrizio Comencini (head of Liga Veneta and until then a key ally of Bossi), Marco Formentini (leader of the left-wing of the party and former Mayor of Milan) and Domenico Comino (leader of a pro-Berlusconi faction), left the party.

In 1998 La Padania, Lega Nord's official newspaper, published several articles attacking Silvio Berlusconi, with whom the party would join forces again in 2000. The articles went as far as accusing Berlusconi of having links with the Mafia.[11]

Since 1999 the League de-emphasised demands for independence in order to rather focus on devolution, while remaining within the framework of Italy, as in its original goal: not to secede from Italy but to transform it into a federal state in order to let Padania keep more tax revenues collected there through fiscal federalism. Moreover, after all these splits had severely damaged the party, Lega Nord lost most of its electoral strength, being reduced to 3.9% at the 2001 general election.

House of Freedoms

After a huge setback at the 1999 European Parliament election (4.5%, a loss of 5.6% in three years), Bossi understood that Lega Nord was no more a viable third force between centre-right and centre-left, that its autonomy was no more a strength and that it needed to join one of the two big political coalitions in order to survive. In 2000 the party re-joined forces with Berlusconi's coalition, previous disagreements notwithstanding, leading the centre-right to a landslide victory in that year regional elections in Northern regions and to a triumph in the 2001 general election as part of Berlusconi's House of Freedoms.

In 2001–2006 Lega Nord, although being severely reduced in its parliamentary representation, controlled three key ministries: Justice with Roberto Castelli, Labour and Social Affairs with Roberto Maroni, and Institutional Reforms and Devolution with Umberto Bossi (replaced by Roberto Calderoli in June 2004). In March 2004 Bossi suffered a stroke that led many to question over the party's survival, but that ultimately confirmed Lega Nord's strength. The party was widely considered the staunchest ally of Berlusconi and formed the so-called "axis of the North"[12] along with Forza Italia, opposed to the axis formed by National Alliance and the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats.

During the five years in government with the centre-right, the Parliament passed an important constitutional reform, which included federalism and more powers for the Prime Minister. The alliance that Lega Nord forged with the Movement for Autonomy and the Sardinian Action Party for the 2006 general election was not successful in convincing Southern voters to approve the reform, which was rejected by voters in the 2006 constitutional referendum.

Fourth Berlusconi government

In the aftermath of the fall of Romano Prodi's government on 24 January 2008, which led President Giorgio Napolitano to call an early election, the centre-right was re-organised by Berlusconi as The People of Freedom (PdL), now without the support of the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats (UDC). Lega Nord ran the election in coalition with the PdL and the Movement for Autonomy, gaining a stunning 8.3% of the vote (+4.2%) and obtaining 60 deputies (+37) and 26 senators (+13).

Following this result, since May 2008 Lega Nord has been represented in Berlusconi IV Cabinet by four ministers (Roberto Maroni, Interior; Luca Zaia, Agriculture; Umberto Bossi, Reforms and Federalism; Roberto Calderoli, Legislative simplification) and five under-secretaries (Roberto Castelli, Infrastructures; Michelino Davico, Interior; Daniele Molgora, Economy and Finances; Francesca Martini, Health; Maurizio Balocchi, Legislative simplification).

In April 2009 one of Lega Nord's pet projects, a bill introducing a path towards fiscal federalism, was approved by the Senate, after having passed by the Chamber. The bill gained bipartisan support by Italy of Values, that voted in favour, and by the Democratic Party, that chose not to oppose the measure.[13] As of late March 2011 all the most important decrees of the reform were approved by the Parliament and Bossi publicily praised the Democrats' leader Pier Luigi Bersani for not having opposed the decisive decree on regional and provincial fiscality.[14][15] Lega Nord influenced the government also on illegal immigration, especially when dealing with immigrants coming from the sea. While the UNCHR and Catholic bishops expressed some concerns over the handling of asylum seekers,[16] the decision of Maroni to send back to Libya the boats full of illegal immigrants was praised also by some leading Democrats, notably including Piero Fassino,[17][18] and was backed by some 76% of Italians according to a poll.[19]

In agreement with the PdL,[20] in the 2010 regional elections, Luca Zaia was candidate for President in Veneto[21] and Roberto Cota in Piedmont,[22] while in the other Northern regions, including Lombardy, the League supported candidates of the PdL. Both Zaia and Cota were elected. The party became the largest in Veneto with 35.2% and the second-largest in Lombardy with 26.2%, while getting stronger all around the North and in some regions of Central Italy.

Out of government

In November 2011 Berlusconi resigned and was replaced by Mario Monti. The League was the only major party to oppose the new government.

Ideology

Lega Nord has aimed to unite all those Northern Italians who support autonomy and federalism for their land. For this reason it tends to be a multi-ideological catch-all party, following what Umberto Bossi stated in 1982 to his early followers: "It does not matter how old are you, what your job is and what your political tendency: what matters is that you and we are all Lombard. [...] It is as Lombards, indeed, that we have a fundamental common goal in face of which our division in parties should fall behind".[23][24] Writes Roberto Biorcio, a political scientist: "The political commitment of Umberto Bossi was influenced by his encounter with Bruno Salvadori, leader of the Valdotanian Union [...]. The convictions of Salvadori on federalism, the self-determination of the peoples (the so-called nations without state) and the belonging to a people on the basis of cultural criteria and not on blood, were adopted by the future leader of the League".[25]

Since the beginning the electorate of the party has been very diverse on a left-right scale. At the 1992 general election, for instance, 25.4% of the party supporters were former Christian Democratic voters, 18.5% Communists, 12.5% Socialists and 6.6% Missini.[24][26]

Catch-all nature

The party's ideology is a combination of political federalism, fiscal federalism, regionalism and support of the traditional cultures of Northern Italy. The historical goal of the party is to transform Italy into a federal state, letting Padania keep more tax revenues collected there under a regime of fiscal federalism. Thus, through Lega Nord, federalism has become a major issue in the country. This is also the main difference between the League and most European regionalist parties (South Tyrolean People's Party,[27] Basque Nationalist Party, Republican Left of Catalonia, Scottish National Party, Vlaams Belang, etc.), which focus on special rights for their own regions.[28][29][30]

Sometimes it seemed possible that the League might also unite with similar leagues in Central and Southern Italy, but it did not succeed in doing so. The party continues dialogue with regionalist parties throughout Italy, notably the South Tyrolean People's Party, the Valdotanian Union, the Trentino Tyrolean Autonomist Party, the Movement for Autonomy and the Sardinian Action Party, and has some figures from the South in its parliamentary ranks. Notably, Angela Maraventano, Deputy-Mayor of Lampedusa, is a senator of Lega Nord. Although it is no more a member of the European Free Alliance, the party has ties with many regionalist parties around Europe, including left-wing parties such as the Republican Left of Catalonia.[31] Lega Nord has some ties also with the Swiss Ticino League.

The political culture of Lega Nord is a mix of pride for the heritage of Northern Italy (particularly with historical references to the anti-imperialist Lombard League; the warrior on the party emblems represents Alberto da Giussano, a mythical figure in the wars against Frederick I Barbarossa,[32] from which Leghisti inherited anti-monopolism and anti-centralism), resentment for some Southern Italian habits and Roman authorities, distrust of Italy and especially its flag, some support for the free market, anti-statism, independentism, and claims of a Celtic heritage.

Despite being officially founded on federalism, Lega Nord is no longer a single-issue party. It is difficult to define it in the left-right spectrum because it is variously conservative, centrist and left-wing with regard to different issues. For example, the party supports both liberal ideas, such as deregulation, and social-democratic ones, such as the defense of workers' wages and pensions. This is because Lega Nord, as a "people's party" representing the North as a whole, includes both liberal-conservative and social-democratic factions.[24] In general, it supports the social market economy and many others goals typical of Christian-democratic parties, and has been described as a "neo-labour party" by some commentators[24][33] and also by some of its members.[34][35]

The original program of the party identified "federalist libertarianism" as ideology.[36] In fact the party has often varied its tone and policies, replacing its original libertarianism and social liberalism with a more socially conservative approach, alterning anti-clericalism with a pro-Catholic Church stance, Europeanism with a marked Euroscepticism,[37][38] and abandoning its original pacifism and uncompromising ecologism.[39]

In 2008 Umberto Bossi explained in an interview that Lega Nord is "libertarian, but also socialist" and that the right-wing he likes is anti-statist and with a "libertarian idea of a state which does not weigh on citizens". When asked to tell his most preferred politician of the 20th Century he said Giacomo Matteotti, a Socialist MP who was killed by Fascist squads in 1925, and remembered his anti-fascist and left-wing roots.[40]

Lega Nord is populist in the sense that it is an anti-monopolist and anti-elitist popular and participative party (it is one of the few Italian political parties not to permit freemasons to join), fighting against the "vested interests", once identified by Bossi in "Agnelli, the Pope and the Mafia". The party is also libertarian-populist in its promotion of small ownership, small and medium-sized enterprise, small government as opposed to governmental bureaucracy, waste of public funds, pork barrel spending and corruption.[41] These are the main reasons why the party is strong in the North, despite being obscured (especially at the beginning of its history) and badly presented by national media, television and newspapers.[42] According to some sources, Lega Nord is an example of a right-wing populist party.[43][44][45]

Platform and policies

The party usually takes a socially conservative stance on social issues, such as abortion, euthanasia, medical embryonic stem cell research, artificial insemination, same-sex marriage (although there is an association called Los Padania, where "Los" stands for "free sexual orientation", linked to the party and Lega Nord was once in favour of same-sex marriage[46]) and drug use (though it did once support the legalization of marijuana along with Marco Pannella's Radicals). Despite this the party has been home to some social liberals: Giancarlo Pagliarini, Rossana Boldi, Giovanna Bianchi Clerici[47] and, to some extent, Roberto Castelli.

Campervan of Lega Nord for the 2005 Tuscan regional election in Florence

Lega Nord opposes statism,[30] supports lower taxes, especially for families and small enterpreneurs.[48] It is also against the flow of public money in help to big businesses facing crisis, as for FIAT[49] and Alitalia.[50][51]

The party, in its political program, is committed to the environment, supporting public green areas, the establishment of natural parks, recycling, and the end (or regulation) of the construction of sheds in country areas, especially in Veneto.[52][53] Lega Nord, which has a strong agricultural wing, also supports the protection of traditional food, opposes GMOs and has campaingned for a revision of the quota system of the Common Agricultural Policy.[49][52]

One of the League's war horses is an American-styled election of prosecutors,[54] along with the regionalization of the judiciary and the Constitutional Court.

In foreign policy, the League often criticises the European Union (it was the only party in the Italian Parliament, along with the Communist Refoundation Party, to vote against the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, but voted in favour of the Treaty of Lisbon,[55]) and opposes what it calls the idea of an "European Super-State", favoring instead a "Europe of Regions",[56][57][58] as the Christian Social Union of Bavaria and the European Free Alliance do. The party has never had a particularly pro-United States stance, although it admires the American federal political system. Its MPs opposed both the Gulf War in 1991 and the NATO intervention in Kosovo in 1999 in the name of pacifism, and Umberto Bossi personally met Slobodan Milosević during that war.[59][60] However, after the September 11 attacks and the emergence of Islamic terrorism, the League became a supporter of the American efforts in the War on Terror,[61][62][63][64] while expressing several reservations about American policy on Iraq.[65][66][67] The League is also a staunch supporter of Israel.[68] In 2011 the party was severely opposed to the Italian participation to the war in Libya.[69][70][71]

Through the Associazione Umanitaria Padana, Lega Nord participates in humanitarian projects which are intended to respect local cultures, traditions, and identities. The campaigns are carried out in under-developed countries or in those that have suffered from war or natural catastrophes. Locations of recent missions include Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan and Côte d'Ivoire.[72] The association is led by Sara Fumagalli, wife of Roberto Castelli and born-again Catholic after a piligrimage in Međugorje.[73][74]

Federalism and secession

The Sun of the Alps, the proposed flag for Padania by Lega Nord

The exact program of Lega Nord was not clear in the early years: some opponents claimed it wanted secession of Padania, while at other times it appeared to be requesting only autonomy for Northern regions. The League eventually settled on federalism, which rapidly became a buzzword and a popular issue in most Italian political parties.[75][76]

In 1996 the party switched to open separatism, calling for the independence of Padania. As a symbolic act of birth of the new nation, on 13 September 1996 Umberto Bossi took a bottle of water from the springs of Po River (Latin: Padus, hence Padania), which was poured in the sea of Venice by a little girl two days later. A voluntary group of militants, the "Green Volunteers", often referred as "green shirts" (green being the colour of Padania), was also established.

The renewed alliance with Berlusconi in 2001 forced the party to tone down and Padania became the name of a proposed "macro-region", going back to the ideas by Miglio: an Italian federal republic, divided into three "macro-regions" ("Padania", "Etruria" and the "South"[29][30]). The new buzzword devolution (often used in English) was also introduced, but with less success than "federalism". This decision caused some criticism from party ranks and led to the formation of some minor breakaway factions.[77]

As observed above, the peculiarity of Lega Nord among European regionalist parties is that its main goal is the transformation of Italy into a federal state instead of simply demanding special rights and autonomy for Northern regions.[27][28][29][30]

Immigration

The party takes a tough stance on crime, immigration, especially from Muslim countries, and terrorism. It supports the promotion of immigration from non-Muslim countries in order to protect the "Christian identity" of Italy and Europe, which, according to party officials, should be based on "Judeo-Christian heritage".[49][52] Because of this, the party is often labeled as "xenophobic"[78][79] and "anti-immigrant".[80] In 1992 the League was compared by Le Nouvel Observateur to some national populist parties of the European far-right, including Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front, Jörg Haider's Freedom Party of Austria and the Vlaams Blok: "the League rejects any association with neo-fascists but plays on themes of xenophobia regionalism and trivial racism".[81]

In 2002 the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) first denounced the party: "members of Lega Nord made a particularly intense use of racist and xenophobic propaganda, although it should be noted that even members of other parties used a xenophobic or otherwise intolerant political talk."[82] In 2006 the ECRI noticed that "some members of Lega Nord have intensified the use of racist and xenophobic political talk." While noting that those expressing themselvers this way "were mostly local representatives of this party, also some important political leaders of the party at the national level issued racist and xenophobic statements. These talks continued to target mainly non-EU immigrants, but also other members of minority groups such as Roma and Sinti." ECRI also recalled that "in December 2004, the court of first instance of Verona found six local representatives of Lega Nord guilty of incitement to racial hatred, in connection with a campaign aimed at ousting a group of Sinti from a temporary camp in the local territory."[83] However in 2007 the Court of Cassation cancelled the sentence.[84]

Although several of its members tend to speak strongly against illegal immigrants (in 2003, Umberto Bossi himself suggested opening fire on the boats of illegal immigrants from Africa, whom he described as bingo-bongos,[85] and Giancarlo Gentilini, at the time Mayor of Treviso, labeled foreigners as "immigrant slackers", saying "we should dress them up like hares and bang-bang-bang"[86]), the official line of the party is much more moderate. In a 2010 interview after some riots in Milan between South American and North African immigrants, Roberto Maroni, minister of the Interior and leghista with left-libertarian upbringings, stated that "the police state is not the solution" to integration problems and, calling for a "new model of integration", he maintained that "we should think that, other than a permit of stay, a job and a house, there are further conditions that today are missing for integration to succeed".[87] Bossi soon endorsed Maroni's words and his will to calm down the party's hardliners.[88]

Moreover, after more than 15 years of government by Lega Nord, the Province of Treviso is widely considered the place in Italy where immigrants are best integrated.[89][90] Similar things can be said also about the city of Verona,[91] governed by Flavio Tosi, who evolved from being a hardliner to be one of the most popular mayors of Italy.[92][93]

Lega Nord rejects all charges of xenophobia, instead claiming that the North is the victim of discrimination and racism.[94][95] Moreover the first black mayor in Italy belongs to the League: Sandy Cane (whose mother is Italian and her father is an African American[96]) was elected mayor of the small town of Viggiù, near Varese, in 2009. In an interview with The Independent, Ms. Cane said that the League does not include racist or xenophobic members.[96] More recently, the League appointed a local coordinator of Islamic origin in Malnate, Hajer Fezzani. She is an Afro-Arab, born in Tunisia, and a non-practicing Muslim.[97]

International affiliation

Lega Nord was originally a member of the European Free Alliance (EFA) and its first two MEPs, Francesco Speroni and Luigi Moretti, joined the Rainbow Group in the European Parliament during the fourth parliamentary term (1989–1994). Between 1994 and 1997 it was a member of the Group of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR)[98][99] and one MEP of Lega Nord, Raimondo Fassa, continued to sit in the ELDR group until 1999. During the sixth parliamentary term (1999–2004), it was briefly a component of the Technical Group of Independents (TGI) along with Italian Radicals and then returned to the Non-Inscrits.[100][101][102][103]

Following the 2004 European election Lega Nord joined the Independence/Democracy (I/D) group and later the Union for Europe of the Nations (UEN), a somewhat awkward affiliation for a party proposing a "Europe of Regions". The party was affiliated to the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe until 2006, when its members joined the European Democrat Group (EDG).[104]

Following the 2009 European election Lega Nord joined the newly formed Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group.

Factions

Although there are almost no official factions within the party, it is possible to distinguish several tendencies or wings.

Regional/ideological divides

The wing from the province of Varese and, more broadly, the bulk of the original Lega Lombarda (including Umberto Bossi, Roberto Maroni and Marco Formentini) has tended to be the left-wing of the party, while that from province of Bergamo (notably Roberto Calderoli) has tended to be more conservative. In fact both Bossi and Maroni hailed from the far-left of the political spectrum, having been active in the Italian Communist Party, il manifesto movement, the Party of Proletarian Unity, Proletarian Democracy and the Greens before starting Lega Lombarda,[105][106] and conceived Lega Nord as a centre-left (and, to some extent, social-democratic) political force.[107][108] From the left came also Marco Formentini, a long-time member of the left-wing of the Italian Socialist Party,[109] and Rosi Mauro, a trade unionist of the metal workers' section of the Italian Labour Union (a trade union linked to the Socialists) and, later, leader of the "Padanian Trade Union" (SinPa).[110]

Since its foundation, Liga Veneta was instead characterised more as a liberal and centrist party and has always proposed a more libertarian political line, due to the different political upbringing of its early leaders and a more conservative electoral base. In the early 1990s, the League stole votes especially from the Communists and the Socialists in western and central Lombardy, while the party basically replaced Christian Democracy as dominant political force in eastern Lombardy and Veneto.[111][112] In fact, also Lega Lombarda included liberal-conservative figures, such as Gianfranco Miglio and Vito Gnutti, both former Christian Democrats, while Giovanni Meo Zilio, a Socialist partisan during the Italian Resistance, was one of the founding fathers of Liga Veneta. Moreover, with the passing of time, the party underwent a process of homogenisation.

Between Maroni and Calderoli, there has been a liberal-centrist wing composed of people like Roberto Castelli, a conspicuous group of former Liberals (including Manuela Dal Lago, Daniele Molgora and Francesco Speroni) and a new generation of politicians (including Roberto Cota, Giancarlo Giorgetti, Marco Reguzzoni, Luca Zaia and Angelo Alessandri). Calderoli's followers have generally been warmer supporters of the alliance with The People of Freedom and Silvio Berlusconi, while Maroni (who is well known for his moderate attitudes, despite his far-left roots), Giorgetti and, up to some point, Reguzzoni have tended to be more critical and "movimentist".[113][114][115]

In Emilia-Romagna, a left-wing heartland, the party has many former Communists in its ranks, and many others have Communist upbringings.[116][117][118]

1997 Padanian elections

In October 1997 Lega Nord organised what it called "the first elections to the Padanian Parliament". Roughly 4 million Northern Italians (6 million according to the party) went to the "polls" and chose between a number of Padanian parties. This is a short resume of the affiliations of leading party members:[119][120][121][122][123][124]

  • Marco Formentini, Giovanni Meo Zilio, Roberto Bernardelli, Franco Colleoni and Mariella Mazzetto, with the support of Roberto Maroni, launched the Europeanist and social-democratic European Democrats – Padanian Labour (52 seats out of 210);
  • Vito Gnutti, Giancarlo Pagliarini, Domenico Comino, Roberto Cota and Massimo Zanello led the liberal-conservative Liberal Democrats – Forza Padania (50 seats);
  • Oreste Rossi, Enzo Flego and Walter Gherardini formed the national-conservative Padanian Right (27 seats);
  • Roberto Ronchi and Giuseppe Leoni founded the Christian-democratic Padanian Catholics (20 seats);
  • a group of Venetian Leghisti formed the Venetist Padanian Lions (14 seats);
  • Leopoldo Siegel and Marco Pottino launched Libertarian and Liberal Padania (12 seats);
  • Matteo Salvini and Mauro Manfredini were candidates of the Padanian Communists (5 seats);
  • Erminio Boso led the agrarian-conservative Padanian Union – Agriculture, Environment, Hunting, Fishing (5 seats);
  • Benedetto Della Vedova, a Radical politician, was elected at the head of an anti-prohibitionist and free-market libertarian list in Milan, while Nando Dalla Chiesa, a Green MP, was an unsuccessful candidate in Milan too.

2008–2011 developments

Since 2008, besides the traditional regional divides, the party has been increasingly divided among three groups, crossing regional upbringings. The first is composed by the so-called "magic circle", that is to say Bossi's inner circle, notably including Marco Reguzzoni, Rosi Mauro and Federico Bricolo. The second is formed around Roberto Calderoli, who is the powerful coordinator of Lega Nord's "national" secretariats and includes among his closest supporters Giacomo Stucchi and Davide Boni. The third one is led by Roberto Maroni, who tends to be more independent from Bossi and is somewhat critical of the centre-right affiliation of the party, and includes Giancarlo Giorgetti, Attilio Fontana, Matteo Salvini and Flavio Tosi.[125][126][127] Gian Paolo Gobbo and Luca Zaia, leaders of the party in Veneto, although very loyal to Bossi, tend to be independent from "federal" factions and have been engaged in a long power struggle with Flavio Tosi (see Factions of Liga Veneta).[128] Indeed Corriere della Sera identified four main groups: "magic circle", Maroniani, Calderoliani and "Venetians" (or, better, Venetists),[129] leaving aside the core independentists (see next section).

Roberto Cota, leader of Lega Nord Piemont, the third largest "national" section of Lega Nord, is very close to Bossi and was part of the "magic circle", but, since his election as President of Piedmont, he has become more independent.[130] Equidistant from the main factions are also Roberto Castelli and Francesco Speroni.[126]

By 2011 Maroniani clearly became the strongest faction within the party and Maroni, who was acclaimed at the traditional rally in Pontida in June, became Bossi's obvious successor.[131][132][133] Maroniani are the largest faction as they have a wider support among rank-and-file members who are active at the local level and vote in party congresses and they are well represented in all the regions.[134][135][136] Apart from Lombardy, they are particularly strong in Veneto thanks to the alliance with Tosi, who, despite being a conservative-liberal, is the lieutenant of Maroni east of the Lake Garda and whose supporters dominate in various parts of the region.[137]

In 2011 Maroni and Calderoli, who had been on opposite sides for years, joined forces against the "magic circle" and its influence on Bossi.[138] After Pontida 2011, Mauro and Reguzzoni tried to convince Bossi to remove Giorgetti from the leadership of Lega Lombarda, but this move was strongly opposed by Maroni and Calderoli, who were supported in this also by Cota and most Venetians.[139][140][141] The attempted "coup d'etat" produced an umparalleled backclash against the "magic circle": 49 deputies out of 59 wanted to replace Reguzzoni as floor leader in the Chamber of Deputies with Giacomo Stucchi, but Bossi imposed the status quo.[142][143][144][145]

After earning resounding victories in the provincial congresses of Verona, Belluno and oriental Veneto during the first half of 2011, Maroniani (with the support of Calderoliani went on to win also in Brescia and Val Camonica, defeating the candidates of the "magic circle" by landslidesas.[146][147] In October, fearing to watch a remake of those congresses in his homeprovince, Varese, Bossi imposed his candidate (who was declared elected unopposed) there, but he was not able to prevent many delegates to openly contest him. In fact, there had been an open vote, Maroniani would have prevailed.[148] The episode was a shock both for Bossiani and Maroniani. Subsequently, there were rumors that, in case of an early election, Bossi would exclude from party lists most of incumbent deputies and senators, and replace them with loyalists. As a response, a quadriumvirate composed of Maroni, Calderoli, Cota and Zaia might try to oppose the move and, possibly, form a new party from scratch.[149]

Issue-oriented groups

The League is home also to some smaller issue-oriented groups, which tend to be better organised. First, there is a group of Christian democrats, most of whom are affiliated to the "Padanian Catholics", founded by late Roberto Ronchi and currently led by Giuseppe Leoni. Another leading Catholic is Massimo Polledri.[150] In fact many Leghisti are committed to Catholic social teaching and the social market economy, and several party members are former members or voters of Christian Democracy.

Then, there is a right-wing which is represented mainly by Mario Borghezio, a former Monarchist who is the leader of "Christian Padania", which is a key advocate of social conservatism within party ranks and has some links with the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X.

Third and fourth, the party has always included also a group of libertarians, whose leading members were Gilberto Oneto and Giancarlo Pagliarini, who left the party in the late 2000s, and an "Independentist Unit",[151] which gathered the more secessionist figures of the party. The independentist wing crosses all the other factions and tendencies and in fact includes, among others, Borghezio and Francesco Speroni. Also Oneto, father of Padanian nationalism, and Pagliarini were close to this group.[152][153]

Finally, the party is home to an agricultural wing, which is particularly strong in southern Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto, and is represented by the Cobas del latte, a farmers' trade union, the "Land Movement", whose leader was Giovanni Robusti,[119] and politicians such as Luca Zaia, a former Minister of Agriculture, Fabio Rainieri, president of Lega Nord Emilia, and Erminio Boso, a historic and now marginal figure from Trentino.

Alliances and coalitions

Within Lega Nord there have always been different perspectives on coalitions. In early 1994, some days before the announcement of the Bossi-Berlusconi pact which led to the formation of the Pole of Freedoms, Roberto Maroni signed a pact with Mario Segni's Pact for Italy, which was later cancelled.[154][155] When, in December 1994, Bossi finally decided to withdraw the party's support to Berlusconi's first government, Maroni, who was minister of the Interior, vocally disagreed. Many party members (40 deputies out of 117 and 17 senators out of 60) left the party and some, including Luigi Negri and Lucio Malan, switched to Forza Italia.[156] Others, including Pierluigi Petrini, floor leader in the Chamber of Deputies, joined the centre-left. Maroni, after some months of coldness with Bossi, returned to be an active member of the League.[108][157]

After the 1996 general election, which Lega Nord fought outside the big two coalitions, the differences between those who supported an alliance with Berlusconi (Vito Gnutti, Domenico Comino, Fabrizio Comencini, etc.) and those who preferred to enter Romano Prodi's Olive Tree (Marco Formentini, Irene Pivetti, etc.) did not disappear. Some of them (15 deputies out of 59 and 9 senators out of 27) left the party to switch either to centre-right or centre-left parties.[158] Pivetti a few months after the election.[159] Comencini left in 1998 to launch Liga Veneta Repubblica[160] with the mid-term objective of entering in coalition with Forza Italia in Veneto.[161] Gnutti and Comino were expelled in 1999, after they had formed an alliance with the centre-right at the local level.[162][163] Formentini left in 1999 too.[164][165]

After a defeat at the 1999 European Parliament election, senior members of the party thought it was not possible to attain the party's goals if it continued to stay outside the two big coalitions. Some, including Maroni, who, despite his defence of Berlusconi in 1994, had always been left-leaning in the heart, preferred an alliance with the centre-left. Bossi asked Maroni to negotiate an agreement with Massimo D'Alema, who once described Lega Nord as "a rib of the left". These talks were successful and Maroni was indicated as the joint candidate for President of Lombardy for the 2000 regional election. Despite this, Bossi decided to join again Berlusconi, who was the front-runner in the upcoming 2001 general election.[166][167] Lega Nord won the 2000 regional elections, as part of the House of Freedoms, and was returned to national office in 2001.

During the years in government in Rome (2001–2006), the party saw the emergence of two different political viewpoints about alliances: some, led by Roberto Calderoli and Roberto Castelli (with the backing of Umberto Bossi), vigorously supported participation with the centre-right, while others, represented by Roberto Maroni and Giancarlo Giorgetti, were less warm about it. Some of them spoke about joining the centre-left some time after the 2006 general election, which they were certain to lose. This idea was ascribed to the fact that, without any support from the left, it seemed even more difficult to win the constitutional referendum, which would have turned Italy into a federal state.[168] The centre-left did not change its position and Lega Nord lost the vote. As a result, Leghisti became much less keen on an alliance with the left.

Similar differences emerged within Lega Nord also during its last participation in government under Berlusconi (2008–2011). While Calderoli continued to be a keen supporter of the government, Maroni seemed far less warm on Berlusconi and, at times, keener on an alliance with the centre-left Democratic Party. Calderoli's line had the backing of Roberto Cota, Marco Reguzzoni, Federico Bricolo and, chiefly, Umberto Bossi, while Maroni was backed by Giancarlo Giorgetti, Francesco Speroni, Luca Zaia and, especially, Flavio Tosi. In this context, senior opposition MPs proposed Maroni as Prime Minister.[169][170][171]

Popular support

Support for Lega Nord is diverse even within Padania and has varied over time, reaching a maximum of 10.1% of the vote at the 1996 general election (around 25% north of the Po River). That year, the League scored 29.3% of the vote in Veneto, 25.5% in Lombardy, 23.2% in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, 18.2% in Piedmont, 13.2% in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, 10.2% in Liguria, 7.2% in Emilia-Romagna, 1.8% in Tuscany, 1.5% in the Marche, and 1.0% in Umbria. The Leghisti were able to elect 59 deputies and 27 senators (39 and 19, respectively, in single-seat constituencies), helping the centre-left to win, due to its successes in some Northern constituencies characterised by three-way races. The League won barely all the seats in the provinces of the so-called Pedemontana, the area at the feet of the Prealps, from Udine to Cuneo, encompassing Friuli, Veneto, Trentino, Lombardy and Piedmont.[172][173][174] Lega Nord is stronger in the areas of the late Republic of Venice and among Catholics.[175]

At the 2008 general election Lega Nord scored 8.3% at the national level, slightly below the result of 1996: 27.1% in Veneto, 21.6% in Lombardy, 13.0% in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, 12.6% in Piedmont, 9.4% in Trentino-Alto Adige, 7.8% in Emilia-Romagna, 6.8% in Liguria, 2.2% in the Marche, 2.0% in Tuscany and 1.7% in Umbria.[176][177]

At the 2009 European Parliament election Lega Nord won 10.2% of the vote: 28.4% in Veneto, 22.7% in Lombardy, 17.5% in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, 15.7% in Piedmont, 9.9% in Trentino-Alto Adige, 11.1% in Emilia-Romagna, 9.9% in Liguria, 5.5% in the Marche, 4.3% in Tuscany, 3.6% in Umbria and other surprising results, such as 24.6% in Lampedusa, 5.1% in Ogliastra, Sardinia and 1.2% in Reggio Calabria.[178]

At the 2010 regional elections gained 35.2% of the vote in Veneto, 26.2% in Lombardy, 16.7% in Piedmont, 13.7% in Emilia-Romagna, 10.2% in Liguria, 6.3% in the Marche, 6.5% in Tuscany and 4.3% in Umbria.[179]

Mayors of Lega Nord govern 391 comuni, including some important cities such as Verona, Treviso, Monza and Varese. In addition Lega Nord currently controls 13 of the 110 Italian Provinces, including some of the most populous ones, namely Brescia, Bergamo, Varese, Como, Lodi and Sondrio in Lombardy, Treviso, Vicenza, Venice and Belluno in Veneto, Cuneo and Biella in Piedmont and Udine in Friuli-Venezia Giulia.[180] Yet Lega Nord is the largest party also in the Province of Verona.[177]

According to a poll conducted in February 2010 by GPG, 45% of Northerners support the independence of Padania.[181] A poll conducted by SWG in June 2010 puts that figure at 61% of Northerners (with 80% of them supporting at least federal reform), while noting that 55% of Italians consider Padania as only a political invention, against 42% believing in its real existence (45% of the sample being composed of Northerners, 19% of Central Italians and 36% of Southerners). As for federal reform, according to the poll, 58% of Italians support it.[182][183] A more recent poll by SWG puts the support for fiscal federalism and secession respectively at 68% and 37% in Piedmont and Liguria, 77% and 46% in Lombardy, 81% and 55% in Triveneto (comprising Veneto), 63% and 31% in Emilia-Romagna, 51% and 19% in Central Italy (not including Lazio).[184]

Electoral results

The electoral results of Lega Nord (and its predecessors) in Northern and North-Central regions are shown in the table below.[185][186][187]

Regional elections

Year Aosta V. Liguria Piedmont Lombardy Veneto Trentino S. Tyrol Friuli-VG Emilia-R. Tuscany Marche Umbria
1985 - 0.9 1.1 0.5 3.7 - - - 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.4
1990 - 6.1 5.1 18.9 7.2 - - - 2.9 0.8 0.2 0.2
1993 7.6 - - - - 16.2 3.0 26.7 - - - -
1995 - 6.6 9.9 17.7 16.7 - - - 3.4 0.7 0.5 -
1998 3.4 - - - - 8.8 0.9 17.3 - - - -
2000 - 4.3 7.6 15.5 12.0 - - - 2.6 0.6 - 0.3
2003 - - - - - 6.2 0.5 9.3 - - - -
2005 - 4.7 8.5 15.8 14.7 - - - 4.8 1.3 0.9 -
2008 - - - - - 19.0 2.1 12.9 - - - -
2010 - 10.2 16.7 26.2 35.2 - - - 13.6 6.4 6.3 4.3

General elections

Year Liguria Piedmont Lombardy Veneto Trentino-ST Friuli-VG Emilia-R. Tuscany Marche Umbria ITALY
1992 14.3 16.3 23.0 17.8 8.9 15.3 9.6 3.1 1.3 1.1 8.7
1994 11.4 15.7 22.1 21.6 7.6 16.9 6.4 2.2 - - 8.4
1996 10.2 18.2 25.5 29.3 13.2 23.2 7.2 1.8 1.5 1.1 10.1
2001 3.9 5.9 12.1 10.2 3.7 8.2 3.3 0.6 0.3 - 3.9
2006 3.7 6.3 11.7 11.1 4.5 7.2 3.9 1.1 1.0 0.8 4.1
2008 6.8 12.6 21.6 27.1 9.4 13.0 7.8 2.0 2.2 1.7 8.3

European elections

Year Aosta V. Liguria Piedmont Lombardy Veneto Trentino-ST Friuli-VG Emilia-R. Tuscany Marche Umbria ITALY
1989 0.5 1.4 2.1 8.1 1.7 0.3 0.5 0.5 0.2 0.1 0.1 1.8
1994 5.7 8.0 11.5 17.7 15.7 4.8 11.2 6.4 1.6 0.8 0.6 6.6
1999 2.0 3.7 7.8 13.1 10.7 2.4 10.1 3.0 0.6 0.4 0.3 4.5
2004 3.0 4.1 8.2 13.8 14.1 3.5 8.5 3.4 0.8 0.9 0.6 5.0
2009 4.4 9.9 15.7 22.7 28.4 9.9 17.5 11.1 4.3 5.5 3.6 10.2

Elects in legislative assemblies

The number of elects (MPs, regional councillors and MEPs) of the party by election are shown in the table below.

1985 reg. 1987 gen. 1989 Eur. 1990 reg. 1992 gen. 1994 gen. 1994 Eur. 1995 reg. 1996 gen. 1999 Eur. 2000 reg. 2001 gen. 2004 Eur. 2005 reg. 2006 gen. 2008 gen. 2009 Eur. 2010 reg.
Liguria 2 2 2 1 3
Piedmont 3 5 4 4 12
Lombardy 15 12 11 15 20
Veneto 2 3 9 7 11 20
Trentino-AA 7 (1993) 3 (1998) 2 (2003) 7 (2008)
Friuli-VG 18 (1993) 12 (1998) 4 (2003) 8 (2008)
Emilia-Romagna 1 1 1 3 4
Aosta Valley 3 (1993) -
(1998)
-
(2003)
-
(2008)
ITALY 2 2 80 177 6 86 4 47 4 39 86 9

Local government

Regional Presidents:

Provincial Presidents:

  • Brescia (Lombardy, 1,256,025 inhab.): Daniele Molgora
  • Bergamo (Lombardy, 1,098,740 inhab.): Ettore Pirovano
  • Treviso (Veneto, 888,249 inhab.): Leonardo Muraro
  • Varese (Lombardy, 883,285 inhab.): Dario Galli
  • Vicenza (Veneto, 870,740 inhab.): Attilio Schneck
  • Venice (Veneto, 863,133 inhab.): Francesca Zaccariotto
  • Como (Lombardy, 594,988 inhab.): Leonardo Carioni
  • Cuneo (Piedmont, 592,303 inhab.): Gianna Gancia
  • Udine (Friuli-VG, 541,522 inhab.): Pietro Fontanini
  • Lodi (Lombardy, 227,655 inhab.): Pietro Foroni
  • Belluno (Veneto, 213,474 inhab.): Gianpaolo Bottacin
  • Biella (Piedmont, 185,768 inhab.): Roberto Simonetti
  • Sondrio (Lombardy, 183,169 inhab.): Massimo Sertori

Mayors (cities over 50,000 inhab.):

Leadership

Federal level

National level

Liga Veneta

Lega Lombarda

Piemont Autonomista / Lega Nord Piemont

  • National Secretary: Gipo Farassino (1987–1996), Domenico Comino (1996–1999), Bernardino Bosio (1999–2001), Roberto Cota (2001–present)
  • National President: Angelo Colli (1991–1992), Domenico Comino (1993–1994), Bernardino Bosio (1996–1999), Silvano Straneo (2000–2001), Oreste Rossi (2001–2004), Mario Borghezio (2004–2011)

Lega Nord Friuli / Lega Nord Friuli-Venezia Giulia

  • National Secretary: Roberto Visentin (1990–1999), Edouard Ballaman (1999–2000), Giuseppe Zoppolato (2000–2003), Fulvio Follegot (2003–2005), Marco Pottino (2005–2007), Pietro Fontanini (2008–present)
  • National President: Rinaldo Bosco (1991–2003), Alessandra Guerra (2005–2008), Enzo Bortolotti (2008–present)

Lega Emiliano-Romagnola / Lega Nord Emilia

  • National Secretary: Giorgio Conca (1989–1990), Fabio Dosi (1990–1995), Pierluigi Copercini (1995–1996), Maurizio Parma (1996–2002), Angelo Alessandri (2002–present)
  • National President: Pierluigi Copercini (1991–1995), Gianni Bettelli (1996–1999), Genesio Ferrari (1999–2002), Villiam Pellacani (2002–2006), Fabio Rainieri (2006–present)

Uniun Ligure / Lega Nord Liguria

  • National Secretary: Bruno Ravera (1987–1994), Giacomo Chiappori (1994–1998), Francesco Bruzzone (1998–present)
  • National President: Andrea Corrado (1992–present)

Alleanza Toscana / Lega Nord Toscana

  • National Secretary: Mario Forconi (1987–1988), Tommaso Fragassi (1988–1994), Simone Gnaga (1994–1998), Vincenzo Soldati (1998–2006), Luca Rodolfo Paolini (2006–2008), Claudio Morganti (2008–present)
  • National President: Tommaso Fragassi (1987–1988), Guido Niccolini (1988–1992), Renzo Del Carrìa (1992–1994), Dario Locci (1994–1996), Emilio Paradiso (1996–1998), Walter Gherardini (1998–2001), Moreno Menconi (2001–2006), Antonio Gambetta Vianna (2008–present)

Lega Nord Trentino

  • National Secretary: Sergio Divina (1991–1995), Alessandro Savoi (1995–1999), Rolando Fontan (1999–2001), Denis Bertolini (2001–2003), Sergio Divina (2003–2005), Maurizio Fugatti (2005–present)
  • National President: Sergio Muraro (1992–1993), Gianbattista Sordo (1993–1995), Sergio Divina (1995–1999), Marco Tomasi (1999–2001), Lorenzo Conci (2001–2003), Alessandro Savoi (2005–present)

Lega Nord Sud Tirolo

  • National Secretary: Umberto Montefiori (1991–1998), Kurt Pancheri (1999–2008), Sergio Divina (2008–2010), Maurizio Bosatra (2010–2011), Elena Artioli (2011–present)
  • National President: unknown (1991–1999), Sergio Tamajo (1999–2008)

Lega Nord Valle d'Aosta

  • National Secretary: Paolo Linty (1991–1998), Giuseppe Henriet (1998–2001), Nicolao Negroni (2002–2006), Sergio Ferrero (2006–present)
  • National President: unknown (1991–1998), Aldo Meinardi (1998–2010), Giuseppina Foderà (2010–present)

Lega Nord Romagna

  • National Secretary: Corrado Metri (1991–1996), Stefano Fantinelli (1996–1999), Gianluca Pini (1999–present)
  • National President: unknown (1991–present)

Lega Nord Marche

  • National Secretary: Luca Rodolfo Paolini (1991–present)
  • National President: unknown (1991–present)

Lega Nord Umbria

  • National Secretary: Alessandro Salvaneschi (1995–1999), Francesco Miroballo (1999–2009), Luca Rodolfo Paolini (2009–present)
  • National President: unknown (1995–present)

Lega Nord Trieste

  • National Secretary: Fabrizio Belloni (1991–1994), Roberto Tanfani (1994–1996), Massimiliano Coos (1996–1997), Fabrizio Belloni (1997–2001)
  • National President: unknown (1991–1994), Fabrizio Belloni (1994–1997), Federica Seganti (1997–2001)

Symbols

See also

References

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