July 9, 2020 / 3:19 PM / a month ago

Italy's right-wing League opens office near old Communist HQ in symbolic move

FILE PHOTO: Italian far-right leader Matteo Salvini is seen as he leads a protest with Antonio Tajani and Giorgia Meloni (both not pictured) against the government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Rome, Italy, June 2, 2020. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo

ROME (Reuters) - The right-wing League party, keen to present itself as the new defender of Italy’s working class, will open an office this month on a highly symbolic street in Rome where the country’s once-mighty Communist Party had its headquarters

“Factories, workers, teachers, agriculture, craftsmen, are now represented by the League,” said Matteo Salvini, leader of the anti-immigrant, eurosceptic League, speaking on Italian TV.

Italy’s Communist Party was one of the largest in the Western world after World War Two but steadily lost support and was formally disbanded in the early 1990s.

Many working class voters have switched to Salvini’s League in recent years amid stagnant wages and large-scale immigration while Italy’s economy has flatlined.

The League’s new office will open by the end of July opposite the large, austere building that used to be the Communists’ headquarters in Botteghe Oscure street. Its national headquarters will remain in Milan.

Once known as the Northern League, the party had campaigned for the secession of wealthy northern Italy from what it saw as the fiscal oppression of “thieving Rome”.

But Salvini, tapping into public discontent with illegal immigration and the European Union, has turned it into a national party which now tops opinion polls with support at around 26%.

Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Gareth Jones

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