Roberto Maroni, a longtime leader of Italy’s right-wing Northern League party and a cabinet minister in ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi’s three governments, has died at the age of 67, League leaders said on Tuesday.
State-run RAI television cited a family statement saying Mr Maroni died at 4am after a long illness.
Mr Maroni was a longtime associate of Northern League founder Umberto Bossi and was secretary of the party as it grew from a northern secessionist movement into a key ally in successive conservative governments, dating from Mr Berlusconi’s rise in politics in the 1990s.
The party under current leader Matteo Salvini dropped “Northern” from the name in a bid to expand its geographic appeal and play down a past that many saw as discriminatory against Italy’s poorer south, and is now a coalition partner in Premier Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing government.
A lawyer, Mr Maroni served as interior minister in Mr Berlusconi’s 1994-1995 government, labour minister in his second government in 2001, and interior minister again in his third and final government in 2008-2011.
Known for his trademark red-rimmed glasses, he was also an accomplished pianist and played in a band in his hometown, Varese.
Mr Salvini praised Mr Maroni as a “great secretary, super minister, great governor and League member forever”.
“He is someone who gave so much to the country, to Italy, to the League, to his community,” he told RTL radio.