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ELECTION

‘Embarrassing conduct’: Anger in Italy after Salvini’s election doorbell stunt

Videos of Italian right-wing politician Matteo Salvini buzzing the intercoms of immigrant residents to ask if they deal drugs have gone viral, spurring wide condemnation and a diplomatic row.

'Embarrassing conduct': Anger in Italy after Salvini's election doorbell stunt
League leader Matteo Salvini on the campaign trail in Bologna. Photo: AFP

Salvini, the former interior minister and leader of the anti-immigrant League, opted for shock tactic during a visit to Bologna on Tuesday to shore up the vote ahead of weekend regional elections.

In the widely-circulated videos, Salvini – surrounded by cameras and a neighbourhood resident – rings an apartment building buzzer.

READ ALSO: Thousands rally in Bologna against far right ahead of regional vote

When a person answers, Salvini says he's heard that drugs are sold there and asks whether or not it's true.

After being hung up on, Salvini asks the crowd around him, “That was him? He's Tunisian?”
On Thursday, Tunisia's ambassador to Italy, Moez Sinaoui, told Italian newswire AGI he was “concerned by the embarrassing conduct” of Salvini, calling it a “provocation with no respect for a private residence.”

A protester in Bologna holds a sign bearing comments made by Matteo Salvini in recent years. Photo: AFP

Salvini is no stranger to provocation and drug dealing is a common refrain in his highly publicised media stunts.

He called the government “drug dealers” when parliament voted to approve the sale of a mild version of cannabis last year (though the bill was thrown out) and often ventures into the main piazzas of Italian cities saying he'll chase away dealers.

In the video Salvini buzzed the residence a second time, saying he wanted to “restore your family's good name because someone says that you and your son deal drugs.”

Italian media reported that the son had sought the assistance of a lawyer for possible legal action against Salvini.

“I'm not a drug dealer. I play football. In a few months I'm going to be a father,” said the young man in a video posted on La Repubblica, who said he was born in Italy to Tunisian parents. “Salvini better take that video off the web.”

An NGO, the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, called Salvini's actions a “hateful election propaganda move” and pledged any legal assistance needed.

On Twitter on Wednesday, Salvini said he did not regret his actions.

“I did well to buzz, I don't regret it at all, I don't care if drug dealers are Italian or Tunisian. Drugs kill. Whoever picks the League, picks the fight against drugs,” he wrote.

READ ALSO: How Matteo Salvini lost his gamble to become Italy's PM – for now

The right-wing populist League party is hoping to score an historic upset in Sunday's elections in the Emilia Romagna region, historically dominated by the left, where the right has recently made inroads.

Salvini's own party this week voted for him to stand trial over an alleged abuse of power while serving as Italy's interior minister last year – a move critics say is an attempt to position Salvini as a “martyr” ahead of regional elections.

Polls say the race is roughly tied with the Democratic Party (PD).

The League leader hopes that victory in Emilia Romagna could bring about the collapse of the current coalition governmentb, etween the centre-left PD and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, and spur a new general election – though Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said this won't happen.

 “Saying that the regional elections are a vote on the government is wrong,” he told Italian radio.

Member comments

  1. A politician listening to the people and doing something with them who would have thought?
    Residents are sick of these people destroying there lives.

  2. So getting a mob together and accusing some random Africans of being drug dealers with no evidence? This is what Italy wants to be?

    Racist ignorance.

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Who can vote in Italy’s elections?

With Italy's next general election scheduled for September 25th, who is eligible to vote - and how can those who are do so?

Who can vote in Italy's elections?

Who can vote in Italy?

For the upcoming election in September, the answer is simple: only Italian citizens are eligible to vote in Italy’s general elections.

Foreign EU nationals who are resident in Italy can register to vote in municipal and European parliamentary elections, but national elections are reserved for Italians only.

Until recently, not even all Italian adults could participate fully in the process: just last year, voters needed to be over the age of 25 to take part in senate elections.

That finally changed with a reform passed by parliament in July 2021. It’s now the case that any citizen over the age of 18 can vote for their representatives in both the lower house and the senate (both ballots are held at the same time).

READ ALSO: An introductory guide to the Italian political system

You don’t need to be resident in Italy to vote; Italian citizens living abroad can register to vote via post.

In fact, Italy is unusual in assigning a set number of MPs and senators to ‘overseas constituencies’ that represent the interests of Italians abroad.

These constituencies are split into four territories: a) Europe; b) South America; c) Northern and Central America; d) Africa, Asia, Oceania and Antarctica. Each zone gets at least one MP and one senator, with the others distributed in proportion to the number of Italian residents.

Up until recently, there were as many as 12 MPs and six senators dedicated to overseas constituencies. This will drop to eight MPs and four senators from September, thanks to another reform enacted in late 2020.

READ ALSO: Why has Italy’s government collapsed in the middle of summer?

How can you vote?

While Italy has a postal vote option for citizens living abroad, Italians resident in Italy must vote in the town in which they are registered to vote (i.e., their comune, or municipality of residency), at the specific polling station assigned to them.

What's behind Italy's declining voter turnout?

Italian citizens who are resident in Italy can only vote in person. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP.

The lack of a postal vote for Italians in Italy is thought to be one of the main factors behind Italy’s declining turnout in elections, and a parliamentary committee on elections has advised introducing one to help remedy the situation; but for now, only in-person votes count.

READ ALSO: What’s behind the decline in Italian voter turnout?

Italians living abroad who are on the electoral register should receive their ballot papers (pink for the Chamber of Deputies, yellow for the senate) from their consulate in the lead up to the election. Their completed ballots must arrive back at the consulate no later than 4pm local time on September 22nd.

Those who haven’t received their ballot papers by September 11th should contact their consulate to request that the documents be resent.

Italians in Italy must have a tessera elettorale, or voter’s card, to be allowed to vote in person. The card contains the holder’s full name, date of birth, address and polling station. Every time the holder goes to vote, the card – which takes the form of a piece of reinforced folded paper – is stamped.

The tessera elettorale should be automatically sent out to Italians at their home address when they reach the age of 18; for those who acquire citizenship and move to Italy later in life, it should be automatically sent to their address by the comune where they are registered as a resident.

If the tessera gets lost, damaged, or becomes filled up with stamps, the holder should request a new card from their comune. 

When an individual moves towns, they should turn in their tessera in order to receive a new one from their new comune. For those who move house but stay in the same town, their comune should send an official slip confirming the new address that can be used to update their tessera.

Anyone who hasn’t automatically received a tessera elettorale and is entitled to one should contact their comune to claim theirs.

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