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Shut out but revved up: could Italy's Salvini thrive in opposition?

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Shut out but revved up: could Italy's Salvini thrive in opposition?
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Out of the government, but not out of the picture: The far-right League Party's charismatic leader Matteo Salvini has been the dominant figure in Italian politics in recent months, but he may be more powerful still in the opposition.

To be sure, these are rocky times for the outgoing deputy prime minister, who withdrew from the ruling coalition in the hope of triggering an early election and cashing in on his surging popularity.

His move backfired when Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte refused to resign immediately, giving the populist 5-Star movement and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) enough time to agree to form a new and unlikely coalition government sidelining the League.

An opinion poll in daily Corriere della Sera on Wednesday showed Salvini's approval rating had plunged by 15 points since he pulled the plug on the government, and is now 16 points behind Conte's.

"Italians are probably blaming him for the political crisis. So I think in the short term, things are not looking great, and that's why he tried desperately to cling to government, even offering Luigi di Maio the prime minister job in a new League/5-Star administration," said Ferdinando Giugliano, who writes columns on European economics for Bloomberg's opinion section.

"But I think in the medium run, he has everything to play for," he told Euronews.

"The Democrats and 5-Star will not – I don't think – form a stable alliance, and Salvini will be able to really attack them from the opposition, attack Brussels, attack austerity," he added.

Giugliano said the PD and Five-Star were bound to clash on topics such as infrastructure and welfare, and would have to put aside a longstanding animosity to work together – with the risk being that this new coalition could prove "highly ineffective".

"It reminds me in a way of the coalition with Romano Prodi (2006-2008): a government which went from the extreme left to the centre and really didn't achieve very much at all, and just paved the way for the return of Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right."

You can watch Giuliano’s full interview on Good Morning Europe by clicking in the player above.