Italy: A political revolution but no government
Italy’s election was “an earthquake,” said Kay Wallace in La Repubblica (Italy), and we don’t yet know what government will rise from the rubble. Fed up with a sclerotic economy and European Union–imposed austerity, and alarmed at the never-ending influx of illegal immigrants, voters this week toppled the establishment and elevated once fringe parties in their place. The populist, anti-corruption Five Star Movement was the single biggest winner, with nearly 33 percent of the vote. But a right-wing coalition led by the anti-immigrant, far-right League party took 36 percent, so President Sergio Mattarella could give it the first try to form a government. Neither Five Star nor the League has led before. The losers are clear: The center-left Democratic Party, which headed the last government, collapsed to just under 19 percent, while former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Forza Italia—a League ally—won only 14 percent. That means the next prime minister will likely be either an untested populist, 31-year-old Luigi di Maio of Five Star, or an unabashed xenophobe, the League’s 44-year-old Matteo Salvini.
Italy has split in two, north versus south, but the common theme is revolution, said Stefan Ulrich in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany). In the north, the League rules supreme, “populist and contemptuous of the European Union.” In the south, Five Star took nearly every district, apparently as a protest vote, since nobody really knows what the party stands for beyond opposition to the corrupt political establishment. Italians plainly resent the EU for leaving them to deal alone with the 650,000 migrants who’ve landed on their shores in the past four years. “Criminality, corruption, and a surging black market are consuming the land,” while unemployment has soared in the south: In many southern regions, nearly 60 percent of young people are jobless. Of course, what Italy needs to combat these ills is “a persistent reform policy through a stable government over many years”—precisely what it just rejected by booting out former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democrats.
It’s unlikely that the League and Five Star will join forces, said Alberto Magnani in Il Sole 24 Ore (Italy). While both are critical of the EU, Five Star merely seeks to limit immigration, not kick out all migrants, as the League wants. And the League, representing the wealthier industrialized north, wants a 15 percent flat tax, while Five Star promotes progressive taxation and a generous welfare state. “Hostility to the old parties” and resentment of Brussels are not enough common ground to forge an agreement “between two movements that draw on different electoral bases.” More likely is that Five Star, which once said it would never ally with another party, will try to govern in partnership with what’s left of the Democrats. That is the best outcome we can hope for, said Massimo Rocca in Il Fatto Quotidiano (Italy). Italy’s establishment has been “trying to ghettoize” Five Star supporters for too long. But the political elite has been vanquished, and now it’s the people’s turn to rule.