Thursday, March 8, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Euroskeptic Italy

The national elections just held in Italy have turned out to
be an unexpected rout for that nation’s left political
establishment, and a clear rejection by Italian voters of
the status quo of European politics.

There were five major parties (and some smaller ones)
competing in this election, including the current ruling
center left party, an even more leftist party, a center
right party, and two populist parties on the right. The
center right party was led by former prime minister
Silvio Berlusconi who is attempting a political comeback,
but Berlusconi’s pro-Europe views did not help his party
which did poorer than expected. Two distinct populist
parties, Five Star, a party founded a few years ago as an
anti-establishment group on the right; and a more
nationalistic party, the anti-immigrant League, did better
than expected. Five Star was the party with most votes
(more than one-third of the total), and its leader Luigi di
Maio, 31, asserts he should be the next prime minister.
But the center-right coalition of three parties, including
Berlusconi’s party and the League, will actually have the
most seats in the new parliament, and this group is putting
forward League leader Matteo Salvino, 44, as the next
prime minister. This issue might not be decided for some

Although Five Star and the League are both euroskeptic,
and combined, received more than 50% of the vote, their
leaders so far indicate they are not ready to form a ruling
coalition .As happened recently in Spain, the current
government might be left in place, and new elections

It is difficult to draw exact parallels between the Italian
results and U.S. politics, but the strain of nationalism and
populism now active throughout European Union (EU)
nations can be connected to the blue collar “mutiny of
the masses” that upset the 2016 U.S. presidential election
and the victory of Donald Trump. More nationalistic
parties have not been successful in Germany, France and
The Netherlands until now --- although France’s new
president Emmanuel Macron, who defeated a French
right-wing challenge with his new centrist party, has now
initiated new and stringent immigration controls.
Immigration has been one of the major issues of
contemporary EU politics --- with nationalist populist
parties throughout the continent calling for limits and
controls on the recent flood of refugees to the EU
countries. More nationalistic anti-immigration parties
now rule in Austria, Hungary and Poland.

The Italian election will impact all of the EU, but
especially Germany and its Chancellor Angela Merkel
who has just won another term, but barely. She has
continued to champion unlimited immigration, but that
policy is facing increasing resistance throughout the EU.
The Italian election will also likely boost the effort of
Great Britain to leave the EU after its voters chose to do
so (Brexit). The Brexit negotiations, led by British Prime
Minister Theresa May, have not been going well recently,
but the Italian voters might have strengthened the
British hand.

European elites have done well in the long post-World
War II boom, and so apparently did most citizens. But
recent strains caused by immigration, high taxes, loss of
identity and sovereignty, and unemployment throughout
most of the EU have caused many European workers to
feel left out of the bounty and the decision-making. This
is at the core of the political unrest in Europe --- an
upheaval which apparently is far from running its course.

Copyright (c) by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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