Thousands gather to support Italian hard-liner Salvini

Leader of The League party, Matteo Salvini, is cheered by supporters at a party's rally in Pontida, northern Italy, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. Thousands of die-hard League voters from across northern Italy were gathering in a foothill Lombard town with long historical associations to nationalist movements as Matteo Salvini relaunches himself as Italy's opposition leader after a grave political miscalculation landed the party out of government. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Leader of The League party, Matteo Salvini, is cheered by supporters at a party's rally in Pontida, northern Italy, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. Thousands of die-hard League voters from across northern Italy were gathering in a foothill Lombard town with long historical associations to nationalist movements as Matteo Salvini relaunches himself as Italy's opposition leader after a grave political miscalculation landed the party out of government. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Leader of The League party, Matteo Salvini, is cheered by supporters at a party's rally in Pontida, northern Italy, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. Thousands of die-hard League voters from across northern Italy were gathering in a foothill Lombard town with long historical associations to nationalist movements as Matteo Salvini relaunches himself as Italy's opposition leader after a grave political miscalculation landed the party out of government. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

PONTIDA, Italy — Thousands of die-hard League voters from all over northern Italy are gathering in a town in the foothills of Lombardy as Matteo Salvini relaunches himself as opposition leader after a grave political miscalculation landed the party out of government.

Backers wearing "Salvini Forever" scarves or "Salvini Premier" T-Shirts streamed into a meadow in the town of Pontida, near Bergamo, for the annual League rally. The town inspires nationalists as the birthplace of a medieval alliance that defeated a foreign emperor.

Salvini is seeking to whip up his base in opposition to the 5-Star-Democratic Party government that took office last week, depriving Salvini of his bully pulpit as Italy's hard-line anti-migrant interior minister.

A survey published Sunday in the financial daily il Sole-24 Ore shows that despite Salvini's political missteps, the League remains the strongest party in Italy with 34% support.

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