|dc.description.abstract||The current rise of far right populist parties in Europe has touched the Italian political scene during the 2018 national elections, when Lega Nord (Northern League) reached 17.35 percent of support from all over the country. This thesis will strive to understand how it was possible that a former regional party like Lega was able to exponentially increase its electoral support, especially in the traditionally antagonistic Center and South of Italy. In fact, the evolution of Lega through its foundation under Umberto Bossi’s leadership until the leadership of the current Minister of Interior Matteo Salvini shows patterns that are worth researching. To establish a link between the change of discourse and the redirection of preferences of Italian voters, especially the ones from the Central and Southern regions, critical discourse analysis was applied to speeches given by Bossi and Salvini in the time span between 2007-2018. In addition, electoral data was used as supporting evidence to trace Lega voting patterns of Italians, focusing on the specific regions, between 2008 and 2018.
The main findings of this work show that there is a plausible link between the presupposed change of the “self-other” representation and the increase of Lega electoral share in the Central and Southern regions. Relying on the Lega Nord scholarship and the data collected from Bossi’s speeches, it was possible to determine that the original identity of supporters of the party was built through their differentiation and opposition towards the Center and the South of Italy, often with uncouth ranting directed to the Southerners. This process allowed the creation of a “self-other,” that is a Northerners against Southerners dichotomy. Nevertheless, this articulation was drastically changed by Salvini. The politician was able to switch the “other” representation to an exogenous “enemy,” that is the migrant. Moreover, this change of discourse started almost at the same time of the beginning of the 2013 migrant crisis. The change of discourse by Salvini was reflected in the voting patterns of Southern Italians, that were able to put behind the past insults by Lega and redirect their votes in a united front against the most modern perceived “other.”||en