Third of Italians back anti-immigrant party

More than one third of Italians – including many in the once-hostile south – are ready to vote for the anti-EU, anti-immigration Northern League, a poll showed on Sunday.

Matteo Salvini (pictured), the youthful leader of the right-wing regional party, confirmed his status as the rising star of Italian politics with approval ratings of 35 percent in a Demos & Pi poll published by La Repubblica newspaper – up five per cent on November.

Salvini, 41, who launched a bid to extend his party’s appeal to the poorer south of the country amid much fanfare on Friday, came second in the poll to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, 39, who it said has the confidence of exactly half of Italians.

His rise is often compared with that of France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who has tried to steer the National Front closer to the mainstream in a bid for power…