Chamisa Blast In Italy
5 March 2018
Spread the love

The leaders of two anti-establishment parties – The Five Star Movement and the anti-illegal migrant League party – are setting their sights on power after Italians backed populist politicians in the general election.

The BBC’s James Reynolds, in Milan, looks at what the result means for the country.

Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini were once outsiders in Italian politics. They have now become the mainstream.

Italian voters, when they’re fed up, have a habit of trying out new voices. In 1994, following corruption scandals, the country re-aligned itself.

Now, to a certain extent, Italy is repeating its old experiments.

Five Star began in 2009 as a radical, even anti-political party. For years, it was dominated by its co-founder, the comedian Beppe Grillo. Earlier this year, he decided to stand back from the party.

In retrospect, this looks like a smart move. It allowed the movement to prove that it represents more than the loud visions of a single, occasionally conspiratorial-sounding man.

The movement made a big point of running alone in this election (by contrast, other major parties teamed up into electoral alliances).

But the feature that gives the party its strength – its independence – may now become its weakness.

In order to form a government, Five Star must find coalition partners. Its inexperience in working with others may be a disadvantage in the practical business of coalition building.

So, which way will Five Star turn?

It’s possible that the party will reach out to defeated centre-left Democratic Party, and to other smaller groupings.

Five Star leader leader Luigi Di Maio (left) in Rome. Photo: 5 MarchImage copyrightAFP/GETTY IMAGES
Image captionLuigi Di Maio (left) is also barging through to be the top dog in politics

Alternatively, Five Star may hope to convince the League party to join a coalition as a junior partner.

The two parties share a scepticism of Italy’s relationship with the European Union. They also share several domestic views, including a hostility towards mandatory vaccinations for children.

But the League party is in no mood to take the small chair at the table. In Milan, party leader Matteo Salvini insisted that his organisation has itself earned the right to lead the country.

The League has risen dramatically in recent years. It was founded in 1991 as a secessionist party, which scorned what it viewed as the scrounging southern part of the country.

But the League now seeks the lead the country it once wanted to break apart.

The party has increased its support partly by swapping its enemies. Instead of criticising southerners, the party now campaigns against illegal migrants.

Matteo Salvini has promised the mass deportation of those who’ve come to Italy illegally – a position that’s clearly won him support.

Mr Berlusconi stands in front of press as a woman standing on a table, with slogans written on her topless torsoImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionMr Berlusconi was ambushed by a topless protester from a feminist activist group as he voted

Crucially, the League has overtaken Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia as the biggest grouping within the centre-right alliance.

Mr Berlusconi, 81, will now have to find a new way of retaking centre stage.

He may be commiserated by his fellow former prime minister, the Democratic Party’s Matteo Renzi – who was also heavily defeated in this vote.

In 1994, Mr Berlusconi was Italy’s fresh voice.

Twenty years later, Mr Renzi took his turn as the energetic new face in Italy’s politics.

But the country’s voters have repeatedly proven that new faces don’t always last. That’s a sobering warning for Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini.- BBC