An Italian singer has become the latest target of Italy’s populist government after winning the Sanremo song festival.

Italian “Morocco-pop” singer Mahmood was also questioned about his nationality after his surprise win at this year’s festival.

Alessandro Mahmoud, who performs under the name Mahmood, took first place on Saturday night with votes from a jury made up of music experts and journalists.

There were complaints of an unfair voting system, and Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said the victory was secured under a “radical chic” jury – a term favoured by the populist government, used to mean a priveliged elite with left-wing views.

Mahmood beat singer Ultimo to the top spot at the 69th edition of Italy’s historic song contest with his song Soldi.

As the winner was announced, Salvini took to Twitter to ask: “This was the most beautiful Italian song?!?”

Marcello Foa, president of Italian state broadcaster Rai which televised the competition, also called for the voting system to be changed.

Foa, a controversial figure who has expressed anti-immigration views and supported conspiracy theories, was put forward for the job by Salvini. He was awarded the role by committee despite protests from journalists’ unions.

He said there had been “a clear imbalance between the popular vote and a jury composed of a few dozen people” and the voting system needed to be fixed “so that the public feels represented.”

Mahmood, an Italian of Sardinian-Egyptian heritage, was also asked questions about his nationality just moments after his victory at Sanremo.

Mahmood defiantly told journalists a press conference: “I am Italian, born and raised in Milan. I do not feel challenged.”

When asked if he felt that he represented a “new generation” of Italians, Mahmood answered: “For me it is not a new generation. In my elementary school class there were Africans, Russians, South Americans. For me it is not the new Italy, but already the old one.”

The festival’s artistic director Claudio Baglioni, who recently clashed with Salvini over his party’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, said at the press conference that questions about Mahmood’s nationality were “not appropriate.”