Contributed by Jim Hayes
Italy’s Five Star Movement (M5S) topped the polls in last week’s election. It was born in 2009, expressing the massive disillusionment with traditional political parties and politics. The five stars represent its core polices for change – public water, sustainable transport, sustainable development, right to Internet access, and environmentalism. The party also favours the bringing in of a form of digital democracy that will allow voters to cast ballots on government policy.
M5S has also promised decisive action on the epidemic of political corruption, which is perhaps the most pervasive in Europe. It is Eurosceptic, and and the same time, argues for Europe to work together over the refugee issue, phase out fossil fuel and support sustainable development.
It took 32.6 percent of the vote, outstripping every other party.
But the wheeling and dealing is going on. The threat is that Berlusconi controlled Forza Italia, managed to get only 13.94 of the vote and is allied to the the Lega Nord (Northern League, and called itself Lega Salvini during this year’s campaign), which has taken much of its support base, to come out with 17.69 percent of the vote.
The outgoing leading party of the coalition that made up the last government, the Partito Democratico (Democratic Party), found its support fall to 18.9 percent. This party was born out of a coalition of former Partito Comunista Italiano (Communist Party of Italy) and Democrazia Cristiana (Christian Democrats) who had modeled themselves on the American Democratic Party, and quickly developed a reputation for being no different to the others.
There is however, a possibility that they may be sympathetic to a coalition with M5S. but such an alliance is likely to be unstable, even if a base agreement is reached. The nation expects that a government led by M5S will bring about some changes, and it is far from certain that the Partito Democratico will go accept too much change.
Another possibility is that the Lega Nord (calling itself Lega Salvini during this year’s campaign) will form Coalition with Forza Italia. Many of Forza Italia’s supporters are worried about their party being connected to the Lega Nord, which is allied to the small Fascist party, Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy), which got 4.4 percent of the vote. The Lega also maintains a relationship with European parties like the French National Front, and the Dutch Party for Freedom.
The third possibility is that a new election will be called. Under Italian law, this will happen if an agreement to form the new government is not reached. Parliament resumes on 23 March, where it is expected that some sort of agreement to form a government will be reached then. If it is not, a new election is likely to be called.
Whatever short-run outcome, the result will leave longer-term consequences. There is the real possibility that no-one will be able to form a stable and lasting government.The election result has given expression to and intensified the polarisation of Italian society. This is deeply rooted,will continue to play out and remain the main aspect of Italian politics into the future.
Italians are demanding much better from their political leaders and an end to the rampant corruption, where so many traditional politicians have been bought by the very rich and powerful, and there have been major scandals involving the banks. Corruption cases have netted more than 3,000 politicians and officials.
Traditional style parties are regarded as having done nothing to fix an economy that threatens to plunge into a black hole, overcome rising unemployment and lack of faith in the future.
Big numbers are turning to those who are promising something very different.
One of the most impressive aspects of the M5S win is that this was achieved in condition that the highly monopolised media has been vicious against it. Most of the television stations, radio and newspapers are owned by Berlusconi. And this gives a good clue to the real battle behind the scenes.
A small group of very wealthy individuals, dead set on maintaining tits dominance, is no longer relying solely on tradition and giving support to the Lega Nord. It has been receiving very favourable treatment by the monopoly media. There is no doubt that this is being built as the Trojan Horse, designed to at best change nothing, and at worst, manufacture the resurrection of fascism.
The Lega’s greatest difficulty is that anti-south rhetoric mean that it cannot get much support from this part of the country, and this might define the limit of its growth.
Consequently, there has been an internal battle within the Lega, and the old guard has given way to a new leadership that has taken a softer line of seperatism and has worked to distance itself from the fascist label. But this is more of a makeover than offering any real change.
Nevertheless, it has become the biggest party of the traditionally industrial north, but it has gone through a battering of de-industrialisation. This was the base of the Communist Party, before it destroyed itself.
The Lega has been astute enough to present itself as a mix of being anti-big business and pro worker, opposition to the European Union, regional pride and opposed to the political establishment. About a fifth of its political base is former supporters of the Communist Party. Another section is former supporters of the Christian Democrats who also went into meltdown.
These are the two political parties that had dominated Italian politics since the Second World War.