The Populist Wave in Italy

The Populist Wave in Italy

By Ryan Ricks

Italy now faces a hung Parliament and large populist victories after parliamentary elections on March 12th. While 50% of voters voted for populist and other right wing parties, no parties received enough votes to rule alone.

Two rival populist parties are now vying for control of the government. The 5-Star Movement, popular among southern Italians, won 31 percent of the vote. The far-right League itself won just 18 percent of the vote, but because it ran as part of a center-right coalition, the whole coalition won 37 percent. While it may be clear what party had the higher vote, a 40 percent vote is needed to form a government.

While the two parties may seem very different, they do share some values. Anti-establishment, anti-immigrant, and anti-European Union, both these parties have swept the imaginations of many Italians.

If neither party can form a government, or agree to form one together, it’s possible there may be another vote in Italy. But, it’s doubtful that another election would stop the populist wave.

With these results, what does this mean for the European Union? Well, since Brexit, this is the worst blow to the European Union in a few years.

Italy is the eurozone’s—the group of EU nations with the Euro as their national currency—3rd largest economy. A possible Italian departure from the European Union could be disastrous for both participants, as predictions say that the two parties are both likely to increase government spending, adding to Italy’s already large debt.

It’s evident that what is happening in Italy is going to be significant. Steve Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, even told the New York Times that this election “epitomizes everything, it is pure populism.” He also said that the “Italian people have gone farther, in a shorter period of time, than the British did for Brexit and the Americans did for Trump…Italy is the leader.”

The similarities are striking between the Italian Election and the American one in 2016. With the far-right League calling for “Italians first” and President Trump’s call for “America first,” it’s simple to see that there is a trend brewing. A trend rife with anti-immigration, anti-left, and anti-establishment sentiment.

Instances such as these elections have been piling up all over the world, especially since 2016. Perhaps we are entering a new stage of populism. Perhaps we will be shortly exiting one. Either way, it’s clear to see—people want change, and have wanted it for a while. Maybe we might just get it.



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