Brace yourself: Italian elections are coming

On March 4th, Italians will go to the polls to choose new and incumbent members of Parliament. The party or coalition that gains the majority of seats, will be in charge of forming the new government and governing the country for the next five years.

In the last decade, Italy has had technical governments (the president of Republic appointing someone as Prime Minister, even though he/she was not a candidate running for the role) due its fragmented Parliament which has not allowed the Democratic Party – the leading party of the time – to achieve a full majority.  In addition, the internal crisis inside the Democratic party itself has led to fratricidal feuds, resulting in the resignation of first Enrico Letta, and then Matteo Renzi, two of the main actors in the Democratic Party. The last government run by the Democratic Paolo Gentiloni managed to get through the pressing requests to resign of the opposition parties – claiming that it was not a government legitimated by the Italians – before its mandate expired.

Less than one week is left until the elections and the situation seems as precarious as ever. Perhaps only the TV drama Game of Thrones is less messy and confusing than Italian politics. On one hand, you have the conservative Lannisters guided by the evergreen Silvio Berlusconi, a sort of “pater familias” and kingmaker like Tywin was for many years in King’s Landing. Berlusconi recently received the endorsement of the New York Times which said that, “Mr. Berlusconi suddenly doesn’t look so bad. And the master salesman, as crafty as they come, is obligingly playing the role of wise and moderate statesman”. It seems like it was ages ago when the same newspaper was making fun of him and at the accusations of corruption against him. Apparently, after Donald Trump, even a man like Berlusconi can appear decent in the eyes of Americans.

The political platform of the coalition led by Berlusconi’s Forza Italia includes a mix of liberalism, tax reform, and stricter migration policy. The latter is an issue dear to the Northern League, one of two anti-migrant parties running together with Berlusconi. “Italians first” is the slogan proclaimed by Matteo Salvini and Giorgia Meloni, the leaders of these parties and, the Jaime and Cersei Lannister of this Italian story. They and their followers focused their whole electoral campaign on spreading fake news about migrants and refugees, promoting in both implicit and explicit ways hatred campaigns against political adversaries and migrants. One of the League’s members started shooting against migrants in Macerata on February 3, injuring six of them. This is only one of the latest attacks against migrants and refugees in Italy, a sign that the phantom of fascism is returning in flesh and bones. Despite the energetic resistance of anti-fascist organizations and cultural associations, fascist groups, such as Casa Pound and Forza Nuova: the Italian White Walkers- have been making headwway day by day thanks to the authorization of local governments to give public speeches and organize demonstrations. The members of these groups show open support to Salvini and Meloni’s political proposals. If Berlusconi’s coalition wins the upcoming elections- will he be able to manage these political forces and distance himself from the emerging neo-fascists groups?

The Five Star Movement performed well under Beppe Grillo’s leadership, but has failed to convince voters that it has a coherent platform.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Five Star Movement, which public polls have identified as the leading party in the upcoming elections. If expectations are confirmed, the designed candidate chosen as potential Prime Minister, Luigi Di Maio will be the new Prime Minister. The Five Star Movement started gaining momentum after 2011, when the global financial crisis, together with national political scandals provoked a sense of distrust towards the traditional parties incapable of fulfilling promises and listening to requests of the people. The Movement, initially led by Beppe Grillo and Gian Roberto Casaleggio, has been very active on social media and through its official blog, promotes the anti-establishment stance Italians have been looking for, vaguely reminiscent of Daenerys Targaryen. It supports the concept of e-democracy which is based on the idea that people can choose their candidates- activists and already-known politicians of the movement- by registering on an online platform. Despite these hopeful premises, the Five Star Movement has demonstrated several times that it does not have a clear political platform or take a stance on real socio-political issues such as basic income, healthcare, education, or migration policy. Furthermore, like the Northern League, this political party has always expressed anti-European ideas, pledging alliances to anti-European parties in Brussels, without ever indicating which European regulations they would like to abolish or modify for the benefits of Italians.  Is the Five Star Movement prepared enough to run the country?

The left-wing parties might be the losers of this upcoming elections similar to the Stark family during the Bolton’s domination in the North. The Democratic Party has not been able to come to an agreement with both the parties led by Emma Bonino (Più Europa) and Pietro Grasso (Liberi e Uguali), who have been promoting a different platform compared with the that of Renzi’s party. Both Bonino and Grasso criticised the Democratic Party for proposing a platform far from the left-wing electorate made of young people, and blue-collar workers, who look now to the Five Star Movement to represent them in the Parliament. Emma Bonino – the legendary figure in the Italian politics, has fought for women’s rights and supportsthe idea of an inclusive Europe. Pietro Grasso, a former attorney who worked in Sicily, is an expert of the mafia and the effects that the criminal organizations have on politics, work, and social behaviours.  Nonetheless, the Democratic Party remains the sole political force able to counter the Five Star Movement and the right-wing coalition, thanks in part to Italians’ appreciation for the former Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni who was known for his moderation and calm manners. Which scenario is going to emerge after the March 4 in the left-wing political area?

Italian elections are here. Everybody is waiting to see who will be the next Tyrion Lannister.

Giulia Masciavè

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