Interior Minister and leader of the party La Lega (The League) Matteo Salvini | PHOTO: ANSA/PRESS OFFICE
Interior Minister and leader of the party La Lega (The League) Matteo Salvini | PHOTO: ANSA/PRESS OFFICE

The anti-migrant League party, led by Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, had the highest number of votes in European elections in Lampedusa and Riace, two places that have become symbols of the migrant phenomenon in Italy. According to Salvini, the result shows that Italians want "legal, qualified, positive migration."

On the islands of Lampedusa and Linosa, at the heart of the migratory phenomenon in Italy, the anti-migrant League party won in European elections by a large margin. The party, led by Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, received 45.85 percent of the vote, more than double that of the Democratic Party (PD), which ran candidates including Pietro Bartolo, a doctor who has become famous for his work treating migrants. 

The 5-Star Movement (M5s) took 16.83 percent of the vote. Salvini's League party, which garnered 34 percent overall and is the top Italian party in European election results, also got a resounding 30.75% of the vote in the Calabrian town of Riace. 

The town, part of the municipal district of Reggio Calabria, was until recently under the leadership of Domenico Lucano and has become known worldwide as a model for its practices of welcoming and integrating migrants. In that town, M5S came in second with 27.43 percent of the vote and PD third with 17.39 percent. 

Salvini vows migration will be 'first battle in Europe'

"In Riace and Lampedusa the League is the top party. Clearly this is a call for legal, qualified, positive migration from Italians. It is their will not just Salvini's whim," said League Secretary Salvini at a press conference. "The two towns that the left chose as symbols, as anti-Salvini - Riace and Lampedusa - are seeing the League as the top party," he added. 

"Migrants will be the first battle in Europe," he said. Further south, on the island of Lampedusa, the mayor, Totó Martello called Salvini's win a "Pyrrhic victory." He explained that  "73.3 percent of eligible voters didn't vote."  Martello brought the low turnout up at a press conference. "Salvini only got 600 votes out of 5,274 eligible voters, of which only 1,404 turned out to vote, just 26.62 percent," Martello said. In addition to absenteeism, Martello also blamed local PD leaders for such a low turnout. "The local secretary boycotted [the PD candidate] Pietro Bartolo [the frontline doctor who has worked with migrants for many years and has written several books on the subject]; just read his posts," Martello said to gathered journalists. 

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