Anti-Establishment Parties Win Italian Elections
Populist parties in Italy were the big winners in the 2018 Italian general election, showing that the Italian people are looking to reject mainstream political parties and move towards more Eurosceptic policy.
A right-wing coalition including former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia emerged with the biggest bloc of voters, while the upstart Five Star Movement grabbed a near 32% of the total vote, securing their position as the largest single party.
Five Star Movement
Free and Equal
The biggest loser of the night, according to exit polls, was the governing Liberal Democratic Party, which was projected to take between 21% and 23% of the vote, far less than the populist coalition.
Though no party will be able to rule alone based on latest results, the surge of support for populist parties has been compared with Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in the US. The gains for populists represent a political earthquake that will send shockwaves to the EU in Brussels.
Immigration and the economy have been two of the key issues for voters during the election. More than 600,000 migrants have traveled from Libya to reach Italy since 2013, which has upset many Italians. In 2016, some 18 million people were at risk of poverty, and unemployment is currently at 11%. The EU is widely blamed both for Italy's decade-long economic morass and the failure to control migration.
In an interview earlier this year, Luigi Di Maio, the leader of the Five Star Movement, said: "We need to start a season of debate on what's not working. Certainly, a key contractual card we bring to the table is the €20bn we give to the EU each year." Di Maio also said "unfair" EU treaties are having a bad impact on Italian businesses and industries and his party would seek to resolve current tensions by threatening the EU to cut budget contributions.
The far south of Italy has taken the brunt of the mass immigration and have almost double the unemployment rates of other parts of the country, and the results of the election paint that picture very clearly, with most of the votes for the Five Star Movement coming from those areas.
Many politicians took to Twitter to speak about the results of the elections. Matteo Salvini, the leader of The League, wrote in a tweet: “My first words – thank you.”
La mia prima parola: GRAZIE! pic.twitter.com/DRXiWVAHQp— Matteo Salvini (@matteosalvinimi) March 4, 2018
Nigel Farage congratulated the strong result of the Five Star Movement.
"My congratulations to my colleagues in the European Parliament (@5-Star Movement) for topping the poll tonight," he wrote in a tweet. Earlier he had tweeted, "Euroscepticism is on the rise."
Congratulations to my colleagues in the European Parliament @Mov5Stelle for topping the poll tonight.— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) March 5, 2018
The election has already been marred by accusations that Russian influence was behind the results. The favored center-right coalition is led by Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister who opposes sanctions against Russia. In his previous iterations as prime minister, Mr. Berlusconi sought to position himself as a bridge between the United States and Russia. Even so, American diplomats secretly suspected him of “profiting personally and handsomely” from a cut of energy contracts with Mr. Putin, according to cables released in 2010 by WikiLeaks. Mr. Berlusconi denied it.
The election may be over, but there is still a lot of negotiating to be done between the different factions to determine the makeup of the new government. Preliminary results from Italy’s general election show the country split three ways. None of the three factions – Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the anti-immigration the League; a center-left coalition headed by Matteo Renzi; and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) – look likely to have enough seats to govern alone, and no government is possible without the support of either the League or M5S. Some kind of coalition will, therefore, be necessary for a majority in Italy’s 630-seat parliament. There are several options for an alliance, though if no deal is made fresh elections may be held.
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