PN candidate called out by district rival for sympathising with Matteo Salvini

Justin Schembri, the PN minority leader on the Birkirkara local council, welcomes Matteo Salvini’s victory in Italian regional election, prompting both praise and criticism

PN candidate Justin Schembri (inset) has welcomed Matteo Salvini's election victory in the Italian region of Umbria
PN candidate Justin Schembri (inset) has welcomed Matteo Salvini's election victory in the Italian region of Umbria

Justin Schembri, the Nationalist Party minority leader on the Birkirkara council, has publicly sympathised with Italy’s far-right Northern League leader, Matteo Salvini, earning him rebuke and praise.

Schembri’s latest Facebook post capitalises on Salvini’s victory in the election held over the weekend in the region of Umbria.

“When the people find someone, who can understand them, and speak their language, they respond with their vote,” Schembri wrote while sharing a news report of Salvini’s victory.

This is the second time in three months that the PN candidate, who had delivered the speech in support of Adrian Delia ahead of a confidence vote in the PN leader last July, has publicly sympathised with Salvini’s politics that adopts a hard-line stand on migration.

Schembri’s post earned him applause from some PN supporters but it also received rebuke from Michael Fenech Adami and some PN MPs.

Fenech Adami warned against populism and insisted Schembri’s post was ‘not in his name’.

Fenech Adami’s Facebook post was endorsed by MPs Jason Azzopardi and Karol Aquilina.

Adrian Delia has straddled the fine line between embracing people’s concerns over the increase in foreigners and outright xenophobia since becoming leader of the PN in September 2017.

Delia has advocated safeguarding the human rights of asylum seekers but then allows people within the party to fan the flames of prejudice against migrants living in the community.

Delia’s ambiguous position on foreigners that flirts with far-right rhetoric has left party members split over what position to adopt on the matter.

However, sources within the PN have also suggested that Michael Fenech Adami’s outburst against Justin Schembri may have a lot to do with district rivalry.

At the last local elections in May, Schembri got more votes that Michael Fenech Adami at the first count.

Schembri, who is a spokesperson on education, will once again be contesting the Birkirkara district in the next general election, in direct competition with Fenech Adami’s brother, Beppe Fenech Adami.