What the EU Elections Mean in ITALY – A Quiescent Left but Fragmented Right
Journalists from Italy share their view on what the political future could look like. Arnold Le Goeuil talks to Lucas Misculin, Europe Editor at Il Post.it and Debora Aru Data journalist.
Italy is the fourth economy of the eurozone, one of the founding members of the EU and the first major country to be fully ruled by the far-right and Eurosceptic. The ruling coalition is composed of the Movimiento 5 Stelle (populist) and of the Liga (far-right) led by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
Both of them have agreed to stop immigration and increase state expenditures to quick-start the economy. But the coalition is fragile: some Liga ministers have been accused of corruption, putting pressure on the M5S (led by Work and Pensions Minister, Luigi Di Maio) which has raised to national prominence exactly because of its pledge to fight corruption. Another factor is the strength of the Liga which is outperforming its coalition partner in all polls – while in the 2018 GE, the M5S obtained double Liga’s score.
Salvini has an ambition to create his own parliamentary group in Strasbourg and to unify far-right parties .
The government coalition is therefore certain to end in the near future and Lucas Misculin, Europe editor at Il Post believes that its survival will depend on European Elections results.
The M5S could leave the coalition to end its decline in polls and come back to its initial outsider image. But the Liga could also leave it because 2020 will be a tough year economically for Italy. The country will need 23 billions euros to sustain its social expenditures and avoid raising taxes. It’s hard in these conditions for any of the governing party to accept betray its core electorate and be responsible for unpopular rises in taxation.
Both parties could dissolve the government after the EU Election in order to let an interim minority government led by bureaucrats (such as Mario Monti’s in 2011-2013) do the ‘dirty job’.
The Left Diminished
As in France and Netherlands, the left – that has ruled the country from 2014 – 2016 – is inaudible. The Partito Democratico has moved to the left but the party is far from being strong (22 per cent), while the right-wing parties (Liga, Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia) would received 45 per cent and the M5S, 23 per cent. However over the past few months, the Liga has lost many voters, decreasing from 37% to 31% while M5s has gained 0.4 percentage points from 21.9% to 22,3%.
According to Debora Aru, data journalist, member of the Reach Data Unit, this decrease can be explained by the ongoing investigation on Under-Secretary of State Armando Siri which had affected Liga’s honesty credentials as well as the coalition partnership. Another explanation is a recent controversy about neo-nazi publisher AltaForte banned from the Turin Book Fair.
This is the reason why, according to Aru, Matteo Salvini has been campaigning very hard in the recent months, giving 211 public speeches since January. But it didn’t stop controversies as when, for example, the removal from of a protest banner against Salvini during one of his public speeches has started hundreds of copycat protests across the country.
However, it remains the case that Italy could be the major supplier of Eurosceptic and far-right MEPs this week, paving the way of a change of orientation across the EU.
Salvini has an ambition to create his own parliamentary group in Strasbourg and to unify far-right parties from Le Pen’s Rassemblement National to Orban’s Fidesz, from Farage’s Brexit Party to the German AfD. If created, it could be the second or third group at the EP and have nearly 160 MEPS. But so far tensions, ideological divergences and different strategies have proved that such unity is difficult to create.