The Italian Lega Nord




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Palgrave Macmillan


Book chapter

Peer reviewed



In this chapter we provide an overview of the Lega Nord’s history to date and show that – at least according to the criteria used by Kenneth Janda (1980) – it can now be considered an ‘institutionalized’ party. We explore in depth the party’s organization by referring to three dimensions: ‘degree of organization’; ‘centralization’; and ‘coherence’. We find that, despite the Lega’s avowedly federalist nature, in reality its organization has for most of its existence been that of a centralized, hierarchical macro-regionalist party. We also look at how the party has responded to the most serious crisis in its history – the resignation of its leader in April 2012, following a corruption scandal. We note that, while the new leader Matteo Salvini has so far brought the Lega electoral success and good poll ratings, there is evidence that some elements of the party’s organizational model are changing as part of a broader process of adaptation to new internal and external circumstances. We assess the similarities and differences of the Lega’s organizational model compared to other parties in Italy. As we note, this has elements in common with Berlusconi’s parties given the traditional dominance of the leader, but also with the new Movimento Cinque Stelle (M5S – Five Star Movement) as regards the focus on the grassroots and the importance of activism.



Populism, Party Organisation, Northern League, Italy, Lega Nord, Regionalist party


Vampa, D. and McDonnell, D. (2016) The Italian Lega Nord. In: R. Heinisch and O. Mazzoleni (eds.), Understanding Populist Party Organisation: The Radical Right in Western Europe, Palgrave Populism Series, pp. 105–129


Research Institute