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Umberto Bossi is the leader of the Italian political party of the Northern League, or Lega Nord, and a figure who rose to prominence in the political arena in the wake of the explosive political atmosphere of the 1990's. Bossi's rise to fame has brought about the concept of federalism, as well as the possibility of changes in the party system in Italy. The "Senatur," as Bossi is known, used his skills to bring La Lega firmly into the public eye, by touching the emotions of the average worker, as well as the entrepreneurial spirit of those businessmen that dislike high taxes and the corruption that restrained Italy from growing and increasing its market share in the world economy. Bossi's ability to interpret the feelings of his fellow citizens allowed him to create a consistent movement that favors independence for Northern Italy, as well as a strong political party able to take on the traditional ones.
The rise of Bossi and his history is well known in Italy. There is the alliance with former Prime Minister Berlusconi, as well as Bossi's strong belief that Northern Italy should be autonomous, but he is also defined by his deep interest in fixing the broken machine that is Italy's largely dysfunctional political system. Bossi also has critics, not only those who disapprove of his beliefs, but also those who don't believe he's doing everything promised. Beyond all this remains the question of who Umberto Bossi really is, one that is difficult to answer.
Umberto Bossi is a decidedly complicated figure, simple and upfront in his manners--some may even say a bit too simple-- but his political brain is quite astute and he has a presence that appeals to people. The most controversial aspect of Bossi's ideals is certainly his vision of a separated Italy, where the North can be free from the burden of the South, a desire made public and implemented into his political strategies, but in reality never really pursued. Just speaking of these beliefs, however, has ignited ideas of separatism and an overall discomfort in and towards the poorest areas of the country. Bossi is quite a controversial figure as well, not only due to run-ins with the law (like the 8 month suspended sentence he received for taking a bribe), but also due to public comments he has made.
Lega Nord Padania Pontida 1996 discorso di Umberto Bossi
Bossi has presented himself as a man of the people, a man that from the street who talks to the street. He never really belonged in the "Palace" so to speak, and often doesn't even fit the image of a member of the government, but instead of this being a disadvantage it has allowed him to keep in direct contact with his voters. Bossi has remained--or at least pretended to remain--one of them, an everyman who has entered the offices of power and the chamber of command. This attitude of being in between street and government has created sympathy towards him and he is always very careful in taking the side of the people. After a difficult first period of alliance with Berlusconi, Bossi came to terms with "Il Cavaliere" and since then he has been Berlusconi's most reliable ally and neither his actions nor his words has showed any signs of mistrust or regret. While La Lega didn't melt into Berlusconi's party like many others did it has clearly embraced his politics, views and shares a long term vision that coincides with the program of the current administration.
Many claim that a politician like Bossi is not cut for statesmanship, that instead he is a movement leader. Those people claim that Bossi could not handle international affairs due to his unorthodox actions and rough look. All this may be true, but what these people are missing are Bossi's strategic mind and his capability of predicting political moves like few others can. Bossi attacks and plans out the future accordingly, and when he steps back it is because he has likely gained his victory. At the moment it is difficult to predict how history will see Bossi, although due to his loud and explicit mouth he will likely be looked upon as the brash person who fought to divide Italy and to settle a broken federation, who was ultimately overshadowed by Berlusconi.
The reality is probably quite different as he succeeded in largely destroying a broken system and getting some very respectable people, like Maroni and Castelli, into power. Yet, Bossi failed in bringing culture and depth to a new generation who seems to be both spoiled and empowered without a clue of what they are doing. Too much too soon can be a problem that Bossi seems to avoid, but then again, perhaps he is once again hiding an ace on his sleeve, which only the future will reveal.