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Cablegate: Who Will Ride the Next Wave of Lega Nord

DE RUEHMIL #0176/01 2310918
R 190918Z AUG 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MILAN 000176


E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/18/2019



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Classified By: A/CG Ben Wohlauer for Reasons 1.4 (b, d)

1. (C) As mentioned in reftel, the 67 year-old founder of the
Northern League (LN) political party, Umberto Bossi, remains
in poor health due to a stroke he suffered in 2004. Though
Bossi continues an active and provocative political life,
constantly in the media and public eye, judging by
appearances and our personal interactions with him he seems
decidedly unwell. He has refused to quite smoking, and
requires a personal assistant to ensure he gets up and ready,
and stays on track during the day. As Bossi is the
undisputed leader and spiritual guru of the party, his
decline is a topic (unspoken generally) of concern among
Leghisti and has led to much speculation over the future
direction and philosophy of this increasingly mainstream (at
least north of the Po River) party. There is a clear first
rank of ""colonels"" in their 50s, including current Ministers
Roberto Maroni and Roberto Calderoli and former Minister
Roberto Castelli, who will probably stake claims to the party
leadership when Bossi goes. However, the longer term picture
will depend also on those young LN leaders who are being
primed for influential seats at the table. The following
cable looks at six of the next generation that we think it
wise to keep an eye on.

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Giancarlo Giorgetti (born in Cazzago Brabbia (Lombardy),
December 16, 1966, married to Laura Ferrari)

2. (C) Numerous political contacts speculate that Giorgetti
is the logical successor to Bossi because of his impeccable
LN pedigree, ironclad personal ties with the boss, and
extensive experience in Rome. He is the national secretary
of the Lombard League (LN,s ""flagship"" regional branch) and
comes from Varese, the hometown of LN heavyweights including
Bossi and current Interior Minister Roberto Maroni. With a
degree in economics from Milan's prestigious Bocconi
University, Giorgetti is sharp and well-respected both inside
and outside of his party. He was elected to the Chamber of
Deputies in 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.

Flavio Tosi (born in Verona (Veneto), June 18, 1969, married
to Stefania Villanova)

3. (C) Tosi began his political career in 1995 when he was
elected to the Verona city council. From 1997 to 2003 he
served as provincial secretary for the LN. He held the
office of regional health assessore until June 25, 2007, when
he resigned to become mayor of Verona. Although Tosi has a
history of fiery rhetoric and populist action (or
trouble-making depending on one's viewpoint), he is an
efficient administrator and has a strong base of supporters
due to his attention to detail. He has earned kudos from
Veronese voters in particular for cleaning up the streets and
public spaces through a ""zero-tolerance"" campaign against
crime and delinquency. As a measure of his personal
popularity and the success of his anti-crime image, Tosi
recently was given direct supervision of the local police (a
role held normally by the central government's Prefect).
This pilot project, launched by Minister Maroni, should give
Mayor Tosi a further opportunity to burnish his image in
Verona and Veneto as a ""Law and Order"" candidate.

4. (C) As noted in reftel, Tosi is a front-runner (along with
Luca Zaia, see below) to become regional governor of Veneto
in elections next March. This is important for the United
States since Veneto is one of Italy's economic powerhouses
and hosts Vicenza army base (the headquarters of Africom's
army component and soon to be the home of the re-consolidated
173rd airborne brigade). Perhaps in pursuit of this
political step up, Tosi is trying to construct a more
moderate image by strengthening his ties with the United
States -- making himself regularly available to meet with
U.S. diplomats and publicizing our trips to the Verona area
in the local media. Though considered to be one of the more
controversial Leghisti on matters of immigration, Tosi has
also stated publicly that immigrants who work legally are a
necessary part of the economy of Veneto and Italy.

5. (C) Tosi was recently convicted of violating the Mancino
law (which condemns racist slogans, actions, or gestures
during political campaigns) for a petition he organized in

MILAN 00000176 002.2 OF 003

2001 urging citizens to support the removal of a Roma camp
outside Verona. However, his two-month sentence was
suspended and the court wiped the conviction from his
permanent record. Considering the anti-immigrant political
mood in Italy, and the strength of the LN's position in
Veneto, this conviction, which he has been portrayed as
another ""abuse of justice"" at the hands of ""activist"" and
""left-wing"" judges, is likely to bolster his image among his
power base. We have no evidence one way or the other on the
alleged politicization of the lengthy legal procedure.

6. (C) Though Tosi is not one of the ""Lombard League,""
Bossi's original party and the nucleus of the Northern
League, he is head of the ""Veneto League"" component of the LN
and is trusted and liked by Bossi. Tosi is reportedly
influential in LN policymaking both regionally and
nationally. Should he not be elected regional governor in
2010, contacts say he would likely get a national ministerial

Luca Zaia (born in Bibano (Veneto), March 27, 1968, married
to Raffaella)

7. (C) Minister of Agriculture Zaia entered politics in 1995
as the Treviso provincial councilmember for agriculture. He
was provincial president from 1998-2005 and regional vice
president of Veneto until becoming minister in 2008, and is
considered one of the two frontrunners (alongside Mayor Tosi)
for the governorship of Veneto in 2010. His position as
Minister of Agriculture is an important placement for LN and
especially the Veneto region. He is an active promoter of the
small and medium-sized enterprises that are the backbone of
Veneto's and Italy's economy. We note that Zaia is probably
one of LN's most ""palatable"" leaders. He is very sharp and
pragmatic, but is not as publicly well-known as Tosi, for
instance. Zaia is well-educated (a graduate of one of the
country's top oenological institutes and of the University of
Udine) and has shown himself able to tackle large problems
and forge important agreements. He is also a fantastic
public speaker (especially off-the-cuff). We witnessed him
talk circles around a political rival, current Veneto
Governor Giancarlo Galan, during a recent public event.

8. (C) Zaia may very well become governor of Veneto, though
contacts tell us he is not interested in the job. However,
we don't believe he is a serious candidate to replace Bossi
because he is not one of the insiders of the Lombard League.

Matteo Salvini (born in Milan, March 9, 1973, separated)

9. (C) Salvini is a firebrand populist and professional
journalist with a hand in LN's press message. He is
responsible for the majority of youth interaction on behalf
of LN due to his roots as a DJ on Radio Padania, the local LN
radio station. He was first elected to the Milan city council
in 1993 and is currently the leader of the LN in the council.
He is vice secretary of the LN national party alongside
Marco Reguzzoni (see below). Salvini was in the European
Parliament from 2004-06, the Italian Chamber of Deputies in
2008, and was elected again to the European Parliament in
June 2009. The international press recently speculated that
his resignation from the Italian parliament was in reaction
to his recitation in a beer tent of an anti-Neapolitan song.
However, in fact, Salvini's resignation was necessary to
accept his new appointment in Brussels, not a result of
pressure over his comments. The media also made much of a
public pronouncement by Salvini in May 2009 that there should
be Milan subway cars designated for Milan citizens only.

10. (C) Because Salvini's role to date has largely been
mouthpiece and ""provocateur,"" it is difficult to know for
sure his personal positions. Publicly he is always on the
radical end of the spectrum, but he has never had to put his
policies in action because he has never held local
administrative office above city councilmember. Nonetheless,
Salvini is a leading light in the core Lombard League and was
present at the creation of the Northern League. With some
national political experience under his belt, now, Salvini is
likely to play a more important policy role within the party.

Massimo Giordano (born in Novara (Piedmont), September 16,
1969, married to Simona Castellani)

11. (C) Giordano joined the LN in 1996 and served as an
assessore in Novara beginning in 1997. He has been mayor of
Novara (Piedmont's second-largest city after Turin) since
2001, winning re-election by a large margin in 2006. A
lawyer by profession, Giordano was elected to office by
supporters across party lines (Piedmont is traditionally a

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Democratic Party stronghold) due to his reputation as a
pragmatic leader. His ability to gain support and build
consensus without resorting to LN's typical incendiary
tactics make him a bastion of moderation within the party.

12. (C) Though less populist than Tosi, Giordano is also an
intense personality. His attention to detail and the
importance he places on personal relationships with his
constituents has worked well for LN. Contacts believe that
in 2011 at the conclusion of Giordano's second, and final,
term he will certainly try for national office. Giordano is
planning to go to the United States on an International
Visitor program in 2010.

Marco Reguzzoni (born in Busto Arsizio (Lombardy), May 30,
1971, married to Elena)

13. (C) Reguzzoni stands out a bit from the others on this
list as he is a successful businessman as well as a career
politician. He has a degree in engineering management from
Politecnico di Milano and since 1995 has worked as a business
consultant and helped start Biocell Center, a multi-national
stem cell research company (with a branch in Boston). He
also worked with the committee that brought Expo 2015 to
Milan. Reguzzoni was a participant in an International
Visitor Program in 2005.

14. (C) At the same time, Reguzzoni has been a hard-core
member of LN, joining the Lombard League in 1986 at the age
of 15. Since 2007 he has shared with Salvini the post of
vice secretary of LN. Reguzzoni's first political job was in
the city council of Busto Arsizio, where he served from
1993-97 before being elected to the Varese provincial
council. In 2002 he was the youngest person elected as the
president of Varese province, a politically influential
province as it hosts Milan's Malpensa International Airport.
Varese, as mentioned earlier, is also a key city in the LN
mythology because it has produced several LN senior leaders.
Reguzzoni served as president until 2008, when he stepped
down to run -- successfully -- for the Chamber of Deputies.

15. (C) Reguzzoni's father-in-law has family connections to
Bossi and for this reason Reguzzoni was pulled into LN
politics at a young age and is extremely loyal to Bossi.
Like the others listed here, Reguzzoni was extremely popular
in his administrative positions for his effective civic
management style and ability to tackle popular issues.
Although moderate in his rhetoric and policies, Reguzzoni has
a personal and emotional bond to LN's core positions
(particularly support for small business and fiscal
federalism). We believe that Reguzzoni could very well be on
track for more senior regional political positions. Despite
his ties to Bossi and LN, however, we've not heard him spoken
of as someone in line for a major national role in the near

Comment: Will The Young Inherit the Party?

16. (C) Naturally this cable does not look at all possible
future leaders of LN. However, it does give an idea of the
factors that are key to moving up in the party: a Veneto or
Lombardy background, loyalty to and a strong personal
relationship with Bossi, and evidence of administrative
competence. Education is not essential, with these
up-and-comers evenly split between college and high-school
grads, nor is extensive Rome experience. Finally, we should
note that while LN apparently does see the value of grooming
young talent for national success, something that the other
Italian mainstream parties don't do as well, it's unlikely
that when Bossi dies his immediate circle of older ""colonels""
will turn over the reins right away.

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