The Italian Elections- A National and European Catastrophe

March 5, 2018

On Sunday, March 4th, the Italian General Election was held, resulting in a catastrophic blow to Italy’s national stability, and the European Union. The Main forces opposing each other were four. The first, Former PM Berlusconi’s Centre Right Coalition, was formed by the Centrist Us with Italy, Berlusconi’s Centre right party Forward Italy!, The National Conservative Brothers of Italy, and the much controversial and nationalist North League. The second coalition was formed around former PM Renzi, and his Democratic Party, together with a union of other Centre-left parties. The third pole, was a dissident group which split from the Democrats, the Social Democratic Free and Equal Party. But lastly, the most important, and threatening party, was the Populist anti-establishment Five Star Movement, founded by former comedian Beppe Grillo, and currently headed by Luigi Di Maio.

 

Italy's former Prime Minister and leader of the Forza Italia Party, Silvio Berlusconi

 

The results split Italy in three, in a catastrophic manner. The Centre Right Coalition came first with 37%, but due to Italy’s electoral system, coalitions require at least 40% for a parliamentary majority. With this result, the already weak and unstable coalition will dissolve, due to internal fights and the rise of Matteo Salvini’s North League. The League was founded in the 90’s, supporting Northern secession, however by now the League has renounced all those stances and has become a Nationalist, anti-clandestine immigrant and eurosceptic party, with very extremist stances. Inside the coalition Salvini beat Berlusconi, the one time four term Prime Minister of Italy, with 19% over Berlusconi’s 16%, another reason why Berlusconi’s coalition will soon rupture. These results are yet to be confirmed, as they are the latest exit polls. The other Centre-right parties obtained less than 6%, adding up to the overall coalition total of 37-38%.

 

The Leader of the North League, Matteo Salvini

 

Together with Berlusconi, who lost to his internal competitor, there is another loser, the Centre- Left coalition, spearheaded by the Democratic Party and Matteo Renzi. The one time Prime Minister, who received 40% in the last European Elections is now under 19%, lower than Matteo Salvini. Renzi’s party has been governing for the last five years, in scandals full with corruption. Conflicts of interest have destroyed Renzi personally, in specific the Banking scandals related to his family and his entourage. This drop in support for the establishment party can however be explained by two reasons. The first, the decision by the more Left wing fringe of the Party to split off and form the Free and Equal Party, which achieved 5%. The second can be found in one, new phenomenon; The Five Star Movement.

 

The former PM and Leader of the Democrats, Matteo Renzi

 

The Five Star Movement, was first founded by comedian Beppe Grillo, as an anti-establishment Populist Party. They were the third force in the 2013 election, and are now the single biggest party (not coalition) in Italy, with more than 32% of the voting share. They are now led by Luigi Di Maio, an MP from Naples, who has famously been against the Euro, against vaccines and immigrants, in favour of more social welfare, and the increment of National Spending and Debt. As journalist Corrado Augias affirmed before the elections, “I wouldn’t trust Di Maio with administering a building, nevermind a country.” The Five Star Movement has caused several problems and scandals in their administrations of the cities of Rome and Turin, however the continue to surge. The reason for this is that the alternatives are Berlusconi and Renzi, archaeological artefacts of Italian Politics.

 

The comedian which founded the Five Star Movement, Beppe Grillo (Left) and the current leader Luigi Di Maio (Right)

 

The best way to halt the Five Star Movement would have been the Centre Right Coalition reaching 40%, but that slipped away, so we now have a situation where no party and no coalition has a majority. A very scary situation. Perhaps we are heading towards another transition government, afterall Italy has had 65 governments in 70 years.

 

Or perhaps a more threatening situation, a populist alliance between Salvini’s league and the Five Star Movement. In that case, a catastrophe for Italy, Europe and the Party system, as these parties break any former party positioning. They are populist, economically right-wing, however many times economically left wing in terms of spending. Socially, they form their own breed, following no logic. Perhaps it is the end of logic, and globalisation?

 

Nonetheless, this rings a scary bell. The last time a coalition of extremist right wingers and a fringe socialist party led by Mussolini formed, the country transformed into an authoritarian Fascist regime. A process which had began in 1918, exactly a century ago. I really do sincerely hope, History does not repeat itself, not this time.

 

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