Political protests and clashes have been reported in several Italian cities as the country prepares for a general election on Sunday, March 4. Political activists notably held demonstrations in Milan, Rome, and Palermo on Saturday, February 24. Thousands of supporters of the Northern League, a right-wing, Euroskeptic, and anti-immigration party, rallied in Milan. Left-wing protesters also clashed with police near Milan's Piazza del Duomo as they attempted to disrupt a rally held by supporters of CasaPound, a right-wing, neo-fascist party. At least three subway stations were preemptively closed in Milan near the Northern League rally, near the CasaPound rally, and near an anti-fascist demonstration.
The Milan protests come as a number of large demonstrations protesting several social and political issues are planned in Rome on Saturday, which have prompted heightened security measures, significant bus transportation disruptions, and traffic congestion. In Palermo (Sicily), several shops were closed early on Saturday over concerns of potential clashes between supporters of the right-wing New Force party, who were scheduled to hold a rally on Saturday, and anti-fascist protesters who were planning to stage a march; however, no such violence was reported.
Additional protests and clashes between demonstrators and security forces are possible across Italy in the coming days ahead of the March 4 vote. A heightened security presence and associated transportation disruptions are expected near related gatherings.
The Italian parliament was dissolved in late December 2017. Campaigning for the upcoming election March 4 is scheduled to end on March 2. A coalition of right-wing parties is expected to win the most votes; however, Italian right-wing parties may struggle to form a majority amid competition from the center-left parties and the populist 5-Star Movement.
Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing Northern League, has promised to deport 500,000 refugees in five years if his party wins. Left-wing and anti-fascist protests have been organized in several cities in recent days, notably including in Pisa, Turin, Bologna, Naples, and Venice. Several of such protests have resulted in clashes between left-wing protesters and police.
Individuals in Italy are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid all protests and demonstrations as a precaution, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities.