Italian Elections: Are We About to Witness Another Berlusconi Comeback?

With Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigning, an election to determine who will head Italy’s 68th government in just 74 years is on the horizon.

Italy is currently run by a left-right populist coalition compromised of the League and the Five Star Movement.

The turbulent relationship has finally reached its breaking point, with Deputy Minister Matteo Salvini (League) pushing for a snap election.

The League currently polls in the mid thirties, while the Five Star Movement polls steadily around 17.5 per cent.

The League’s numbers may seem small for a general election when compared to the United States, but there are over twenty political parties in Italy, dividing the vote up so much it is exceedingly rare for a single party to gain a governing majority. Coalitions, therefore, are a regular affair.

 

POSSIBLE COALITIONS

With the left-right coalition crumbling, the two potential coalitions in the upcoming election are centre-left and centre-right.

On the left, the Five Star Movement is discussing a potential coalition with the left-wing Democratic Party. Together, they would still fall just short of a majority.

The League, having worked very closely with Brothers of Italy party, has also been in talks recently with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party.

With both Forza Italia and Brothers of Italy under ten per cent, Salvini would need to form an alliance with both to compete with a Five Star/Democratic Party coalition.

Beppe Grillo. Photo by Niccolò Caranti
FIVE STAR MOVEMENT

The Five Star Movement (M5S) is led by Luigi Di Maio and is the left side of the left-right coalition currently in power. Di Maio currently serves alongside Salvini as a Deputy Prime Minister of Italy as well as Minister of Labor.

M5S is populist, anti-establishment, and seems to oppose near all legislation the League proposes.

The party was founded by Beppe Grillo, a comedian and blogger, in 2009. Grillo, an anti-establishment outsider himself, founded the party to be just that.

Once regarded as anti-mass migration, the Movement’s views are currently a little for fuzzy on this issue. They have been against the Bossi Fini law, which outlines the expulsion and imprisonment of illegals.

Other main policy points of the Five Star Movement include universal income support, cutting regulations, and raising taxes on banks and oil and gas companies.

However the two lasted as long as they have due to shared anti-establishment, nationalist, and Eurosceptic beliefs.

DEMOCRATIC PARTY

The Democratic Party (PD) of Italy as we know it today was established in 2007, when multiple centre-left parties from the 2006 coalition government and Olive Branch list merged.

However it is not a Democratic Party as we know the name to mean in America, even with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar in Congress.

The Italian PD is an entire party of AOCs and Omars, defined as ‘social democrats’ (which is just a different way of saying ‘socialist’).

One of the major parties that merged into the Democratic Party was the Democrats of the Left, socialist successors of the Italian Communist Party founded in 1921.

LEAGUE

The League (Lega), led by ‘il Capitano’ Matteo Salvini is a right wing nationalist, populist party known for its strength on immigration. Salvini currently serves as Minister of the Interior and Deputy Prime Minister of Italy.

The League was formerly known as the Northern League due to its geographical founding. As its popularity grew, the League dropped the geographical title and rose to the national stage.

Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen

As Minister of the Interior Salvini closed the nation’s ports and tightened up the pathway to citizenship. One of the biggest platforms for the League is ensuring Italian citizens are put before refugees.

‘Italy first’, closed ports, and a flat tax are amongst the platforms that have aided in rapidly increasing the League’s poll numbers.

The main nationalist, anti-establishment message of the League echoes that of the Trump administration in the Unites States, though the League is admittedly more to the right.

The turnout for Salvini’s events all around Italy have never before been seen.

BROTHERS OF ITALY

Georgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy (FDI) is a nationalist, conservative party that shares many core beliefs with the League, including being exceedingly Eurosceptic.

Brothers of Italy is “based on the principles of popular sovereignty, freedom, democracy, justice, social solidarity, merit and fiscal equity.”

The main difference between the League and Brothers of Italy is their geographically support. Whilst the League’s base remains largely in the north, Brothers of Italy’s supporters are more centrally and southernly located.

FORZA ITALIA

Named after a soccer chant, Forza Italia (FI), or ‘Go Italy’, is led and founded by the eighty-two year old member of parliament Silvio Berlusconi.

Forza Italia is described as centre-right, liberal Catholic, and liberal democratic, but is more in favor of the EU than the League and Brothers of Italy.

Berlusconi has served as Prime Minister of Italy under four governments and is one of the richest men in Italy. He founded Forza Italia in 1993, then the party dissolved in the late 2000s and relaunched in 2013. Berlusconi continues to the lead the party today.

Berlusconi, accused of corruption multiple times and convicted on tax fraud in 2013, owns Mediaset which controls Italy’s three largest television stations.

Forza Italia has partaken in coalitions before, including with the League in 1994.

If the coalitions form as expected and outlined above, the election is too close to predict based on current poll numbers.

However if the Five Star Movement keeps sinking and the League keeps growing, a Salvini-headed centre-right coalition government is certainly plausible.

Sofia Carbone is a reporter for RaheemKassam.com and tweets at @SiCarbone_

Italy Will Get Its 68th Government in 74 Years Following PM’s Resignation.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella on Tuesday, perhaps prompting yet another change in government in the southern European nation.

Conte’s resignation comes during escalating turbulence in the left-right, populist coalition government.

Announcing his resignation with Deputy Ministers Matteo Salvini of the right-wing League party on his right, and Luigi Di Maio of the left-leaning Five Star Movement to his left, Conte added to the turbulence.

The PM slammed Salvini as “irresponsible and opportunist”, saying he showed “grave lack of constitutional culture” by triggering the government crisis.

But Salvini and his party currently lead in national polls, raising questions over Conte and Five Stars’ relevance in government.

The outgoing PM’s statements coincide with a surge in the League’s poll numbers. He says this demonstrates Salvini’s “political opportunism”.

“I would do it all again,” Salvini blasted back, adding that he is “not afraid of the judgment of the [Italian voters]”, and asserting that some in the Italian parliament “are afraid of the judgement of the Italian people”.

Recent European Union parliamentary elections showed anti-establishment views, including those of Salvini, are not “confusing” to European voters as Conte claimed in his earlier statement. Rather, Italians seem very keen on handing Salvini and the League the full power of the Italian government.

Britain’s Brexit Party won by nearly eleven per cent in the EU elections, gaining 29 seats; while Salvini’s League won by nearly twelve per cent.

Tecnè Election Survey 08.08.2019

In the 2018 general election the League collected only 17.4 per cent of the vote, whilst the Five Star Movement had the plurality at 32.7 per cent.

A year and a half later, the parties have traded places and the margin has grown in the League’s favor.

NATIONAL ELECTION?

Although yet to be confirmed, an election is on the immediate horizon for Italy, and will usher in Italy’s 68th government in just 74 years.

With Prime Minister Conte looking to exit, the government has all but officially fallen apart. Moreover, the Five Star Movement may have just lost its most powerful ally, spelling trouble for the populist, anti-establishment left.

Italy’s Democratic Party is polling ahead of the Five Star Movement at 22.4 per cent, which has led to speculation about a potential coalition between the socialist Democratic Party (PD) and the Five Star Movement.

Although falling short of a majority, the potential center-left coalition could win a plurality over the League on its own.

The League and Salvini know this, and are scouting a coalition of their own which could include the increasingly popular Brothers of Italy alongside Silvio Berlusconi’s party Forza Italia.

If an alliance was to form amongst the three parties, they would be comparable to, if not a few points ahead of the centre-left coalition.

Assuming the alliances form as speculated, the current polling would put the two coalitions too close to call.

Sofia Carbone is a reporter for RaheemKassam.com and tweets at @SiCarbone_