ROME - The big winner in Italy's vote in the European elections was Matteo Salvini's anti-migrant League party which took one third of the Italian vote, strengthening his grip on government. His coalition partner, the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement was the big loser. After just one year in government, the result turned around the balance of power between the two ruling parties but Salvini immediately pledged not to dissolve the ruling coalition.
Matteo Salvini was quick to thank Italians after results of Sunday's vote in the European elections showed him ahead by far. His victory came as no surprise as his party quickly emerged as the undisputable winner and first party in Italy, garnering more than 34 percent of the vote. His coalition partner, the 5-Star Movement took half that.
It was a sensational result for a regional party that garnered just six percent of the votes in the last EU election five years ago. Salvini, before the vote, made it clear he would not change the existing coalition government, saying "my word is worth more than some votes.' He pledged to get back down to work immediately and not dissolve the ruling coalition or reshuffle the Italian government.
Luigi di Maio, leader of the 5-Star Movement issued a brief statement blaming his party's poor showing on low voter turnout adding "now heads down and let's work". But voter turnout in Italy was only slightly down from the last EU elections.
Speaking at the League headquarters in Milan during the night, Salvini said "a new Europe is born."
/**/ /**/ /**/
He said, "Not only is Italy the first party in Italy, but Marine Le Pen is the first party in France, Nigel Farage is the first country in Britain. So, Italy, France, Britain: it's a sign of a Europe that is changing.'
Salvini added that he was proud that "the League is taking part in this new European Renaissance." With the League possibly obtaining the largest number of seats by a single party in the new European parliament, Salvini said his party would be pushing for an 'economic' portfolio - agriculture, competition or energy - for the next EU commissioner.
But the Italian leader's exultation is tempered by results elsewhere in Europe where populists made only modest gains. They won just under a quarter of seats in the European parliament - far lower than the the one third that nationalists on the continent had hoped to get.