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Right-wing parties won nearly 70% of the vote in the recent Italian election, but the uncertainty is which right-wing coalition will form a government.
The eccentric billionaire and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, leader of the Forza Italia Party who is more known for his playboy lifestyle than for his politics, has been the prime minister candidate of the Center-Right Coalition for many election cycles. This year, however, with only 14% of the vote, he had to cede that top spot to Matteo Salvini, leader of the coalition party The League, which surged ahead in the polls to 17%.
The League was formerly known as Liga Nord, the Northern League, and was a nationalistic near-separatist party for the wealthy northern Italy. However, they have managed to gain ground all over Italy by rebranding themselves as a Center-Right EU skeptic party. They have gained popularity for wanting to curb the flow of migrants into Italy from North Africa.
However, their rise in popularity pales in comparison to the surge of yet another anti-establishment party called the Five Star Movement, which singlehandedly secured 32% of the votes.
Led by the 31-year old Luigi Di Maio, the party has won voters in the right-leaning north on promises of corporate tax cuts and slashing red tape, but also gained popularity in the left-leaning south by promising an increased minimum government support for poor people.
What they all have in common is that they want to stop the migrant crisis that the German Chancellor Angela Merkel has created with her open borders policies.
This has earned them the label of “far-right extremist” in the mainstream media.
Some pundits have described a “nightmare scenario” in which all the “far right” parties join forces into an “extremist” coalition consisting of The Five Star Movement, The League, and Brothers of Italy, who, combined, got 54% of the votes. They have a majority, even without Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.
However, despite having the numbers to form a stable majority government, Italian parties are notorious for their spaghetti politics. Governments rarely last more than a year. The parties who won the popular vote have strong but often incompatible personalities, and they are young and inexperienced. Populist movements are often unstable. Getting them to cooperate may be a bit like herding cats.
It is highly uncertain what the result of the election will be. There is plenty of potential for screwing up and imploding.
However, even if the parties get their act together and form a stable coalition, the Italian President Sergio Mattarella has the unique power that he can ignore the election result and ask any party he wants to form a government. There is a lot of pressure on him from the EU to ensure a stable relationship with the Union. We will probably not know the outcome for weeks or maybe months to come.
The only thing that is certain, however, is that the EU friendly centrist-left Democratic Party had a disaster election with a record low 19% of the votes. The Italian people have sent a very powerful message to European politicians: Unless you start taking the migrant crisis seriously, your days in office are numbered.