Marine Le Pen enters the Italian political debate by appearing with Matteo Salvini.

Matteo Salvini (la Ligue), alors ministre de l’intérieur italien, et Marine Le Pen, alors présidente du RN, lors d’un rassemblement de nationalistes européens avant les élections européennes, à Milan, le 18 mai 2019.

Tout le plaisir est pour elle. A l’invitation de « [son] ami » Matteo Salvini, Marine Le Pen doit se rendre, dimanche 17 septembre, à Pontida, près de Bergame, en Italie, où elle s’affichera aux côtés du patron du parti transalpin d’extrême droite la Ligue. Sa venue au traditionnel raout de M. Salvini dans le cœur battant de la Ligue illustre leur proximité politique, rappelant les préférences du Rassemblement national (RN) en Italie et jetant le trouble au sein de la coalition au pouvoir.

The French far-right figure is scheduled to deliver a speech of about twenty minutes at midday, following her party’s return in Gard. She announced her presence in Pontida through a video and a wide smile. Since 1990, the League used to ignite autonomist passions there, but now it represents radical right-wing populism.

Why her and not Jordan Bardella, the party’s lead candidate for the June 2024 European elections? “The invitation was addressed to Marine Le Pen, with whom the friendly and political bond is stronger,” said the RN, emphasizing that Mr. Bardella and Salvini had exchanged via video conference in July. In April, the former, still largely unknown in his family’s country of origin where he often visits, was only privately received by the latter, who is the Italian deputy prime minister and minister of infrastructure in the Meloni government. Since then, the configuration has changed within the right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni, where the League, on one side, and Forza Italia (FI), on the other, are sometimes turbulent allies. The prospect of the European elections, where each will go their separate ways, does not help.

Cordon sanitaire toujours solide

If all its components share the goal of building an alternative right-wing majority in Europe, by breaking the current alliance between the center-right and center-left in the European Parliament, the inclusion of the RN within it is divisive. “We invite Marine Le Pen to remind everyone that the European right will achieve nothing if it does not unite under the Italian model,” says Marco Zanni, a European Parliament member of the League and president of the Identity and Democracy group, to which the RN and the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) belong.

At the European level, Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia party aims to embody the driving force of conservatives and still dreams of an alliance with the European People’s Party (EPP), which brings together conservative right-wing parties, including the historically weakened Forza Italia. However, the union of these three right-wing parties faces a strong cordon sanitaire against French and German allies of Mr. Salvini. Manfred Weber, the president of the EPP, recently reiterated this, as did Antonio Tajani, vice-president of the Italian council and secretary of FI, after the announcement of Marine Le Pen’s visit to Pontida. “We cannot ally ourselves with Le Pen because our values are different from hers,” emphasized Mr. Tajani. Fratelli d’Italia responds to this visit with cautious silence, simply acknowledging that Mr. Salvini can invite whomever he pleases to his party.

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