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Viewing cable 09MILAN95, KEEPING BERLUSCONI CLOSE: NORTHERN LEAGUE STRATEGY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MILAN95 2009-04-28 15:03 2011-03-04 11:11 CONFIDENTIAL Consulate Milan
VZCZCXRO1120
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHMIL #0095/01 1181541
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 281541Z APR 09
FM AMCONSUL MILAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1750
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 8786
RUEHFL/AMCONSUL FLORENCE 0203
RUEHNP/AMCONSUL NAPLES 0201
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MILAN 000095 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/WE, EUR/PPD 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/27/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PINR ECON IT

SUBJECT: KEEPING BERLUSCONI CLOSE: NORTHERN LEAGUE STRATEGY 
FOR EU ELECTIONS 
 
MILAN 00000095  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
Classified By: CG Daniel Weygandt.  Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
------- 
Summary 
------- 
 
1.  (C) Northern League (LN) insiders Roberto Calderoli, 
Minister for Legislative Simplification, and Giancarlo 
Giorgetti, President of the Finance Committee in the Chamber 
of Deputies described their strategy to make LN the hegemonic 
political party in Northern Italy over the next few years. 
Key to their plan is progress on fiscal federalism and 
broader regional autonomy and securing one, or possibly two, 
regional governor positions in the 2010 elections.  Giorgetti 
acknowledged an upward trend in polling for LN ahead of the 
EU Parliamentary elections in June, but expressed concern 
that if LN results were ""too good,"" it would create friction 
with Berlusconi's People of Liberty party (PdL) and possibly 
hurt the chances of an LN candidate to head the PdL ticket 
for a key Northern region in 2010.  LN's strategy in the 
short term will be to keep Berlusconi as close as possible, 
minimizing tension between the LN and PdL.  Still, center 
right candidacies for Northern Italian regions for the 2010 
elections will likely be the key cause of discord within the 
governing coalition over the next year.  End summary. 
 
2.  (U) On April 20, the Consul General had lunch with two 
top figures in Italy's Northern League political party: 
Roberto Calderoli, Minister for Legislative Simplification, 
and Giancarlo Giorgetti, President of the Finance Committee 
in the Chamber of Deputies. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
Economic Crisis Disproportionally Felt in the North 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
3.  (SBU) Giorgetti asserted that the economic crisis is more 
of an abstraction in Rome and that this explained the 
somewhat limited response to the crisis from the government. 
He explained that roughly half of Italians are retired and 
receiving guaranteed pensions.  Of the other half that works, 
almost half work for the government.  This leaves only a 
quarter working for the private sector and at risk of losing 
their jobs in the current downturn.  The government jobs are 
concetrated in Rome and southern Italy while private sector 
jobs, particularly in small business are concentrated in 
northern Italy. (Note: The concentration of small business is 
densest in Lombardy and the Veneto, LN's traditional 
strongholds.  End note.)  Thus, Giorgetti concluded, only a 
quarter of the population is feeling the effects of the 
economic crisis and three quarters of that group is in the 
North.  (Note: The proportions Giorgetti cites are rhetorical 
flourishes, but most are roughly within the ballpark with the 
exception of the symbolic exaggeration that three quarters of 
private sector activity is in the North.  Still, we are 
certainly hearing increased concern from export-focused small 
businesses throughout our district, particularly given the 
recent dropoff in demand for exports.  End note.) 
Frustration with the government's response to the crisis is 
increasing support for LN, according to Giorgetti. 
 
----------------------------- 
Future of the Northern League 
----------------------------- 
 
4.  (C) Calderoli was unequivocal about the future of LN.  He 
expressed the LN goal was to be the hegemonic political party 
in Northern Italy.  He said the party would seek to achieve 
this result through delivering concrete results, starting 
with this year's push on fiscal federalism.  He was clear 
that the LN base expected real autonomy and that fiscal 
federalism was at best a first step, particularly in the 
current, relatively weak set of proposed reforms.  He pointed 
to the regional elections in 2010 as a key opportunity for 
LN, noting they should be able to win two governorships 
(there has never been an LN governor).  He was confident that 
LN governors would build support for the party through good 
government at the regional level. (Note:  This strategy has 
worked well for LN at the local level, particularly with 
strong mayors that are able to build support for the party 
through competent administration and personal charisma. 
Regional governors are more prominent and have more 
authority, so LN hopes this strategy will work even better on 
a regional level.  End note.)  When asked which two 
 
MILAN 00000095  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
governorships LN hoped to get, Calderoli explicitly named the 
Veneto suggesting LN had enough support to win outright there 
and thus the center right coalition would support a LN 
candidate to keep the LN from ""going it alone.""  It was clear 
that Lombardy was the second target, but Calderoli insinuated 
that Lombardy was probably too prominent for Berlusconi's 
People of Liberty party (PdL) to give up and that LN might be 
able to give up Lombardy for a guarantee on Veneto and some 
other concessions. 
 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
LN Looking to 2010 Elections: Keeping Berlusconi Close 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
 
5.  (C) Calderoli and Giorgetti agreed that European 
Parliamentary elections in June were of secondary importance 
to the party.   Nonetheless, LN is clearly keeping an eye on 
those races.  Giorgetti noted that polls showed increasing LN 
strength ahead of the June elections, but that paradoxically 
LN party leader Umberto Bossi was worried that the party 
would get too much support.  Further gains at the expense of 
PdL this year could upset the coalition's balance, he argued, 
and drive the PdL to seek to openly tarnish LN at every 
opportunity ahead of the 2010 elections.  Giorgetti said the 
LN strategy in the short term would be to keep Berlusconi in 
a bear hug, as close as possible.  ""If Berlusconi says red, 
we say red.  If he says black, black for us too.""  Giorgetti 
sensed Berlusconi was looking to create friction to push LN 
to be more extreme and improve PdL's support, but he was 
clear LN would not fall for it. 
 
6.  (C) Comment:  Gaining a governorship has been a Northern 
League priority for quite some time.  The conventional 
political wisdom is that a strong showing in the upcoming EU 
Parliamentary elections would give LN increased leverage to 
ask for their candidate to head the center right ticket in at 
least one key region in the 2010 elections.  Since the 
decision of a candidate will be made by political leaders, in 
this case negotiated between Berlusconi and Bossi, LN is 
astutely seeking to avoid friction until the 2010 elections - 
including friction from performing too well in the EU 
elections.  Still, with polls showing a strong boost for LN 
(though it is still early for polling by Italian standards), 
LN will not have fine-tuned control over their election 
showing nor over how good is too good according to 
Berlusconi.  Candidacies for the regional elections in 
Northern Italy on the center right will continue to be a key 
source of tension within the governing coalition until the 
lists for the 2010 election are set.  End comment. 
 
--------- 
Bio Notes 
--------- 
 
7.  (SBU) Roberto Calderoli is 53.  He was born in Bergamo, 
Italy on April 18, 1956.  He holds a degree in medicine and 
dental surgery.  He started out in politics with the Lombard 
League, precursor to the Northern League, in the late 1980s. 
He was first elected to Parliament in 1992 and has been a 
member of Parliament since (Deputy until 2001, then Senator). 
 He twice served as Vice President of the Senate.  In that 
role during the Prodi Government from 2006-2008, he was 
regarded as one of the legislative masterminds of the 
opposition, working to engineer Prodi's fall from power.  He 
served as Minister of Institutional Reform from 2004-06 and 
since 2008 has served as Minister for Legislative 
Simplification (both times without portfolio).  He plays a 
key role in the LN party structure as well, serving as 
coordinator of its regional secretaries (a key election 
strategy position) since 2002.  He is best known for his 
controversial antics and anti-immigrant stance, including 
unbuttoning his shirt in Parliament to reveal a t-shirt with 
a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad and calling for a national 
""take a pig to your local mosque day"" to protest mosque 
construction in Italy.  Aside from party leader Umberto 
Bossi, Calderoli is perhaps the most popular LN politician 
with the party's rank and file.  He is intellectually astute, 
but cultivates an image of buffoonery to disarm his political 
opponents. 
 
8.  (SBU) Giancarlo Giorgetti is 42.  He was born in Cazzago 
Brabbia, Italy (near Varese) on December 16, 1966.  He has a 
degree in economics from Milan's prestigious Bocconi 
University.  He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 
 
MILAN 00000095  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
1996 and has been reelected in each subsequent session.  He 
served as President of the powerful Treasury Committee from 
2001-06, and from 2008 to the present (he served as Vice 
President of the Committee when the center right was in the 
opposition from 2006-08).  He has also served on the Foreign 
Affairs Committee and is a member of the Italian 
Parliamentary delegation to NATO.  He is regional party 
secretary for the Lombardy Region, a key LN stronghold.  He 
comes from Varese, the hometown of numerous other LN 
heavyweights including Bossi and current Interior Minister 
Maroni.  He is extremely sharp and well-respected both inside 
and outside of his party.  Numerous contacts speculate that 
he might eventually succeed Bossi as leader of the party (and 
he tends to agree in private). 
WEYGANDT 
"