De Magistris spars with Salvini on 'In Mezz’ora'
NAPLES -- In a long distance TV dual on Sunday, Mayor of Naples Luigi De Magistris and Lega Nord secretary Matteo Salvini accepted to appear on air together for the first time after Saturday’s rally in Naples had ignited street clashes, making the global news.
Although not face-to-face, the two politicians agreed to confront one another on national talk show In Mezz’ora hosted by former RAI President Lucia Annunziata, breaking a long-term silence.
“Let’s not put last week’s demonstration into a ‘community centre equals violence’ equation,” warns DemA (Democracy and Independence Movement) leader. “What was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration, that should have ended with a raspberry, got carried away. We did everything we could to avoid the situation from degenerating; the result cannot be attributed to the mayor of Naples. Where you find Salvini, you find violence,” attacks the mayor.
“The city never said Salvini could not hold an assembly,” he goes on to emphasize. “We just did not want him to use one of the city premises for the rally. That is right, the state needs to guarantee freedom of speech. As a matter of fact, so many places were available that day, like the Palapartenope Complex just 50 metres away. Issuing the state order the morning of the assembly, the Ministry of Internal Affairs apparently decided to give into Salvini’s whim instead of using common sense,” he adds.
Holding up the mayor’s new book entitled “La città ribelle” (The Rebel City), programme host asks DemA secretary if he indeed considers himself a part of the state or as a rebel. “Although parts of the state have impeded me from being a magistrate, today I am part of those institutions, but I am equally a street mayor,” he states. “If striving to be a city that welcomes and offers solidarity means being against the state, then I am. I am surely an atypical individual: I am faithful to the constitution and against compromises,” he explains.
After naming some of the many politicians who currently criticize him, as governor of Campania De Luca, former governor Antonio Bassolino and former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, the possible 2021 DemA candidate announces the newly formed movement he represents will soon pass from defending the constitution to carrying it out and provokes his adversaries by adding: “perhaps people are starting to worry now that they see us connecting.”
“Am I a populist? No, the word does not offend me. Salvini has governed the country with other powers that have oppressed individualism, those that we strive to appreciate. If being a populist means manipulating anxiety to produce fascism, I put up barbed wire and say I am not a populist. If it means connecting with the population and giving a voice to the people who have never had one, I am not offended. In Naples, there is a big people’s movement, if the term is used in that sense, then it is a populist experience,” he clarifies when asked how audiences can interpret that he and Salvini both wave populist manifestoes.
In an atmosphere one could cut with a knife, Salvini takes his seat live from Milan after the mayor’s interview terminates, defining De Magistris a “poor man” before the southern capital leader takes off his microphone and gets up to leave.
“I heard the interview of this man, a useless half an hour in my opinion. I am not going to judge. I am going to let the viewers judge,” dives in Salvini. In the meantime, he admits: “I am very worried for the many Neapolitans who have real problems.”
Confused over the negative outcome last weekend’s rally has had over Salvini, the TV journalist expresses the broad consensus for the secretary, overwhelmingly defending his right to speak and attacking De Magistris’ actions.
“My visit to Naples went badly,” complains the Northern League secretary, emphasizing that newspapers reported on sparks of violence and protests instead of important themes discussed with law-abiding citizens that included work, medical care and the future of the young. “It’s not normal that a government minister has to intervene because a bizarre mayor annuls a rally three times in one day,” retorts Salvini.
“I am confused,” confesses the programme host again. “Are you going down south to campaign with a new project? Is the public to understand Lega Nord no longer manifests its desire for the North to succeed from the South?”
With former party leader Umberto Bossi and his repeated criticism in the great loss of north votes as a consequence to Salvini’s southern migration, Salvini reiterates how the party cannot win elections only with support of the north.
“The European Union has failed miserably. I am not against Europe, but we need to found the continent again; Italy needs a sense of healthy pride. I think positively and believe we should try and sit down at the drawing table to re-discuss agreements,” he asserts differently from his growing populist counterparts in Europe.
In answer to questions about his project to govern and eventual role as Minister of Internal Affairs, Salvini admits that an alliance with Silvio Berlusconi is possible, but only in the face of a new and shared project agreed upon prior to taking office. “While I do not anticipate one single right-wing party, I could see the formation of a Right-wing Federation where Lega Nord maintains its identity and, above all, it does not give into the fundamental points that are dear to us like the people of this country.”
With party expansion and growing consensus in the South, the far right-wing party leader states he is planning on returning to the south with various dates this spring that include an appointment set for Naples.