LA CIVETTA April 2019 - Page 13


Second, the popularity of the neo-fascist party, Alleanza Nazionale (National Alliance), grew massively in the poorest regions of Italy, above all in the South. At first it seemed to be an insignificant fringe group. But the leadership of the young and charismatic Gianfranco Fini led the party on to win 13.4% of the vote in the 1994 elections. In addition, it won well over 20% of the vote in the South.

However, its success did not last. It was dissolved in 2009 and no longer exists as a political organisation.

Forza Italia and Berlusconi

Thirdly, there was Forza Italia (Forward Italy or “Let’s go Italy”) which was created just two months before the elections of 1994. It creator remains its President today: Silvio Berlusconi, media tycoon and owner of AC Milan football club. With the tricolor of the Italian flag as its logo, patriotism was the heart and soul of the party.

Berlusconi also regularly used the language and imagery of football in campaigns which was a tangible source of great national pride at the time. He also promised a “second economic miracle” that never materialised.

Nor was Berlusconi’s image as a “fresh” politician, unscathed by corruption, true. He in fact had done many dodgy deals with Craxi in the 80’s, who was at the time being investigated on charges of corruption. Some argue that Berlusconi wanted to be Prime Minister merely to secure immunity from such investigations.

Nevertheless, Forza Italia claimed 21% of the vote in 1994 and in 2018 they earned 17% of the vote, the fourth largest party behind the Lega Nord (20%) and the Democratic Party (18%).

From this we can see that the two of these right-wing groups are just as important today as they were at the start of the Second Republic.

And with them they carried anti-European politics.

The 5 Star Movement

But the big change is a shock newcomer: the Movimento 5 Stelle (5 Star Movement) that has the largest number of seats in the new Italian government.

The 5 Star Movement, founded by comedian and blogger Beppe Grillo, won 36% percent of the vote and 227 seats. Grillo has been plagued with legal scandals and critics of his lavish lifestyle.

However, Grillo has worked hard to create a fresh-faced party. They believe in direct democracy (hence all candidates are elected by members), and they refuse to consider politics as a career option, only allowing candidates to serve two terms at any level before returning to their “real jobs”. They also refuse to put forward any candidates with a criminal record (hence why Grillo cannot stand for office).

In addition to this, they have a young, charismatic leader in the form of Luigi Di Maio. At the age of just 32, he is now Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development.

Di Maio stated in 2017 that Italy should stop the “sea-taxi service” that brings immigrants to Europe. This is in line with the 5 Star Movement’s anti-Europe, anti-immigration stance.

In 2017, they promised a referendum on Italy’s membership of the EU. However, they have since backed down from this position fulfilling (as is common with their policies) a rather unclear stance. Di Maio referred to the EU as “the 5 Star Movement’s home” early in 2018.

italy's current European stance

After the hard work of Prime Ministers Lamberto Dini (1995-96) and Romano Prodi (1996-98, 2006-08) in 1998 Italy was formally accepted for entry into the single currency. The launch of the euro followed in 1999.

According to polls, 56% of Italians do not have faith in the EU. This is caused largely by the recent increased immigration and by Italy’s distrust of the EU’s financial grip hold it has on the country. In response, we have seen strong anti-immigration action and a breaching of the Dublin regulation as Italian government policy.

Why is Italy a potential wrecking ball for the EU?

But where Italy will break the EU won’t be in ideological difficulties. The EU has always worked on the basis on compromises with national interests. Italy has already been difficult about accepting its European debt and has rejected European immigration policy. It’ll be about money.

Italy’s debt stands at 132% of GDP, the second highest after Greece in the EU. With the 5 Star Movement and political novices such as Di Maio rising to prominence, the European markets have only been more scared off by Italy.

This becomes all the more frightening when you consider the 5 Star Movement’s electoral promises of universal basic income, and a lower retirement age. It seems very possible that if there is not political stability and economic cuts then by 2022 Italy could financially destroy the EU.

And this is where Italy differs from Greece. Italy represents 15% of Eurozone GDP, whilst Greece only represents 3%. Italy was at the heart of Europe when it was created and enjoyed great benefits from the European Economic Community. Now its corrupt and unstable politics are sending the nation towards an economic iceberg that could sink the EU for good.

Moreover, Italian economic stagnation will only lead to a greater hatred of Europe. Following Luigi di Maio’s meeting with the leaders of the Gillets Jaunes anti-Macron French protest movement, there is a great political pretext to follow this potential European divorce, fueled by economic frustration.

Either Italy shapes up its politics or Europe will pay the price. Who knows which will give in first?