Make Rome Great Again: Italian Election Fallout By Joshua Turner
For those hoping to push back the tide of authoritarian populism even farther back in Europe, the Italian Elections can be seen as nothing else than a colossal disappointment, if not entirely unsurprising. The right wing coalition, led by Lega and Forza Italia, combined for about 35% of the vote, which was only slightly higher than the Five Star Movement, the largest single party at about 32%. The center-left Democratic Party (PD) got around 19% of the vote, which was almost a seven point drop from the previous election.
No single party or group of ideological aligned parties received enough votes to form a government. A broader coalition will need to be formed to have a governing majority. A natural option would, on the face of it, seem to be the Five Star Movement and the League, who have both run on a European Union skeptic platform. And despite their previous statements that they would not be part of a governing coalition, the Movement seems willing to at least attempt to form a majority, either with the PD or the League.
Matteo Salvini, leader of the League, has expressed that he believes the center-right coalition has a “duty to govern” and both the he and the Movement’s leader, Luigi Di Maio, has said they are open to conversations about governing. The PD is the odd group out, despite winning the second most votes for a single party. They are the only pro-Europe group that received a significant number of votes, which leaves them in an awkward position as far as finding a governing partner.
All of this should make Europhiles exceedingly nervous. Despite Emmanuel Macron’s successes, and Germany finally forming a coalition, with Angela Merkel atop to govern, Europe is still in a rather fragile place. Brexit negotiations have stalled, while the the wave of authoritarian populism does not seem to have abated. Italy is now either going to have a Euro-skeptic government or face re-elections that seem unlikely to help the PD, especially now given that Matteo Renzi has resigned as leader and is relegated to the political wilderness.
Then there is the matter of Steve Bannon, who, not content to sow discord at home, made the trip to Italy to campaign for the League and then made a stop in France to address the National Front’s convention in which he told the crowd: "Let them call you racists. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor.”
So, for those keeping score at home, the Italian elections are a big win for nationalist parties, Euro-skeptics, and anti-establishment parties, while pro-EU ‘globalists’ suffer another costly defeat. Should this lead to an eventual Italian vote to leave the EU, as Salvini has declared he would like to do, the consequences will reverberate far past Rome.
Joshua Turner is a Masters of International Relations candidate at American University and editor of The Hitch.