Data forecasts changes in Italian League’s positioning

“MEPs discuss situation in Hungary – Matteo Salvini (ENF, IT)” by European Parliament

Fresh analysis of VoteWatch data points to an increasing divergence between Lega and its EP group, Identity and Democracy. This is an important development in light of the ongoing EP negotiations to reshape the right-wing camp following Fidesz’s departure from the EPP group. 

Our previous analysis on the matter indicated that a restructuring of the current ECR group is the most likely option, with Fidesz being in a relatively stronger position to join the conservative faction. Conversely, the involvement of ID parties such as French Rassemblement National and Alternative für Deutschland is rather unlikely, while the situation of the League (Lega) is more blurred. Lega is a governing force that recently bid to moderate some of its positions, especially with regards to EU-Russia relations, in order to reach out to the political centre.

Our latest data (shown in the graph below) indicates that Lega is evolving towards a more moderate stance, which is not shared by the rest of the ID group. While at the beginning of the current term Lega voted alongside the majority of the ID group almost 91% of the time, Lega’s voting positions have since become less consensual within the group.

Importantly, this trend is also reflected in the opposite data comparing the voting behavior of Lega with the positions of the more centrist political forces represented in the EP. For example, while Lega agreed with the S&D group about 25% of the time at the beginning of the term, they have voted similarly almost 38% of the time over the past few months (we found similar patterns related to the other political groups).

The graph below shows that the positions of the French and German parties in the ID remain, comparatively, farther from the centre. 

Yet, we should not overestimate the degree of Lega’s pivot to the centre, as the group remains at odds with the main EP political groups on several issues, especially on the socio-cultural dimension (rule of law, migration, gender, constitutional affairs, culture & education, etc.), but also on other topics such as the budget. Even when it comes to the more right-leaning EPP, differences between Lega and the group led by Manfred Weber seem very difficult to reconcile as things stand now, which leaves ECR as the main interlocutor for Salvini.

In 2021, Lega agreed more with Polish PiS, as well as other ECR parties such as Vox and Fratelli d’Italia, than with any of the ID parties.  Despite their difficult relations, Lega agreed with Vox 57% of the time in 2021, while the agreement between Salvini’s party and their historical allies from Le Pen’s party was slightly lower (54%).

The next few months will tell us whether these data developments are an indication of a bigger re-shuffle in the making. Similar data analyses by VoteWatch anticipated political break-ups over the past few years, such as that between the UK and the EU and Fidesz’s departure from the EPP.

For instance, our previous analysis surfaced an increasing divergence between the voting behavior of the UK and the other Member States in the Council starting from 2010. The increasing confrontational approach by the Tory government served as an indicator of the deterioration of EU-UK relations, thus foreshadowing the following divorce.

At the beginning of the term, we observed increasing tension between Hungarian Fidesz and the EPP group, as shown by the voting behavior of Orban’s MEPs. Also in this case, our voting data indicated that the differences between the two parties were increasingly difficult to reconcile, thus predicting their likely divorce within the following years.

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