Another Party Pops Up in Italy to Fight Salvini, a Shared Enemy

John Follain

(Bloomberg) -- Italy’s political landscape just got a little more crowded.

The newcomer is a tiny centrist party selling itself as an alternative to populists of all stripes. The group called Action is led by Carlo Calenda, a 46-year-old former minister who once served as envoy to the European Union.

Calenda wants to appeal to voters who are “sick of having to choose the lesser of two evils:” the right-wing nationalism of Matteo Salvini’s League and the anti-establishment stance of Luigi Di Maio’s Five Star Movement.

The biggest problem for Italy’s ruling class is how to counter Salvini’s unstoppable surge in opinion polls.

The firebrand has been out of government since his attempted coup over the summer failed to trigger the elections he hoped would allow him to lead without Five Star. He’s now dangerous, campaigning up and down the country to big crowds. In the meantime, his former partners are flailing and paired up instead with the center-left Democratic Party (PD).

The League polls at 34.2%, compared with the PD at 19% and Five Star 16.3%.

As the government limps on, Salvini scored a win in traditionally left-leaning Umbria and plans to repeat that success in Emilia-Romagna, another left-wing stronghold. That prospect alarmed four friends-turned-activists enough to create a grassroots movement called Sardines that aims to pack city squares with anti-Salvini supporters.

Meanwhile, there’s the risk of the proliferation of small parties that carry little weight.

Calenda’s group was credited with only 1% of the vote before its launch, according to an EMG opinion poll for Rai3 television on Nov. 7. A former manager at Ferrari NV, he served as minister in the governments led by Matteo Renzi and his successor Paolo Gentiloni, both of the PD. He quit the party in August after it joined forces with Five Star.

Renzi himself left the PD back in September to launch his own party called Italy Alive.

--With assistance from Jerrold Colten.

To contact the reporter on this story: John Follain in Rome at jfollain2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Flavia Krause-Jackson, Caroline Alexander

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