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Salvini inches closer to leading Italy (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 452.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the Italian regional elections in Emilia-Romagna and Calabria, where despite failing to win in Emilia-Romagna, Salvini’s Lega had a strong showing in a far left region, proving once again that he is poised to soon take over as Prime Minister of Italy.

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Via Gold Goats ‘n Guns…

There was real fear in Europe over what could have happened this weekend in Italy. Regional elections in Emilia-Romagna and Calabria could have been terrible for the tenuous ruling coalition between PD and Five Star Movement.

But the center-left held serve against the insurgent campaign of Matteo Salvini and his Lega-led coalition.

Emilia-Romagna is the birthplace of Italian Communism and has been a stronghold for the political left for decades. Even though Salvini failed to win the day this is a clear case of failing falling forward.

It’s a massive improvement for the center-right in Italy and will effect how the region is governed. But the big story here is Five Star.

It is also clear that Five Star is now in complete collapse as an opposition party, garnering only 3.5% in E-M and just 7.3% in Calabria.

Nationally, Five Star is now polling between 15-17%, flirting with political irrelevance if the numbers drop much lower than this. But, where will those voters go?

Five Star was born as an opposition party to entrenched and corrupt Italian political elites. It was decidedly Euroskeptic and it’s not handled the transition from outsider gadfly channeling voter frustration into an effective governing force at all.

Mattia Zulianello has a great article up on the London School of Economics and Political Science blog about how Five Star’s lack of internal cohesion has doomed it to an Icarus-like flight too close to the sun and crashing back down to earth while Salvini’s Lega continues to be a force capable of transforming Italian politics for a generation.

Five Star originally emerged (and remained until 2018) as an anti-system party that rejected cooperation with the other parties in the system and presented itself as a separate pole in opposition to both the centre-right and centre-left. At that time, it declared that it would only cooperate with the other parties on a strict issue-by-issue (and law-by-law) basis. The M5S rejected the legitimacy of the other parties in the strongest terms and fully-fledged cooperation was out of the question.

However, anti-system parties often eventually integrate into the system they previously opposed. This is especially true for populist parties as they are the ‘new normal‘ in European party systems and governments today. The integration and legitimation of populist parties can be a long or short process, according to the various incentives of the political system and electoral results, and is usually accompanied by a series of programmatic and organisational reforms.

The zenith of the integration of populist parties is represented by their eventual entry into national office. In many cases, populist parties are indeed able to survive office, and even to gain votes in subsequent elections. Italy’s Lega is a case in point. After a first disastrous experience in office (1994), the Lega, over time, benefited from a ‘learning process’. It now has a long record of government participation and dominates the Italian agenda. According to all the polls, the party led by Matteo Salvini is by far the strongest in the country today (estimated at 32%).

This is why Lega’s support in E-M has steadily risen over the course of the last three elections there and was nearly capable, in just a three-year time horizon to unseat the establishment there. Only a bitter fight driving massive turnout, nearly 59%, kept E-M from turning “blue.”

Previous elections saw turnout drop as low as 30%. Who turns up to vote when the outcome is predetermined?

Look at the results closely and you’ll see the thing disquieting the Italian plutocrats this morning. Five Star and PD’s support dropped a combined twenty points. Not only is Five Star in freefall but it looks like PD may be as well. The next government in E-M will not take the voters for granted like they have been.

Lega and the Brothers of Italy scooped up the 7 seats in the government lost by PD, who no longer rule with a massive majority.

The results for Calabria were even worse. The Center-Left coalition lost more than thirty-two points over the 2014 election. And while that outcome wasn’t in doubt beforehand it shouldn’t be discounted either. Like Umbria’s election last fall, these results are telling everyone that big change is on Italy’s horizon.

The markets today are breathing a sigh of relief. Salvini has been beaten back for a bit. But for how long? Yes, the ruling coalition survives another day. Yes, it’s a little stronger than it was yesterday. But, Five Star as a party is in the early stages of collapse and the infighting among its high-ranking members will continue until such time as the coalition breaks.

Salvini was right back in August to dissolve the coalition. As Italy sinks economically and politically he is in the position to rally the populists, secure their support and gain support while the government takes all the blame.

And, as Zulianello suggests, since Lega is a properly constituted and functional organization, when it returns to government it will do so with a clear mandate and clearly-defined goals.

These are two things Five Star could never deliver on.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.

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Olivia Kroth
February 2, 2020

Thank you for this excellent video, Alex and Alexander. I am so happy that after BREXIT there might be ITALEXIT soon.

Vera Gottlieb
Vera Gottlieb
February 2, 2020

I don’t think so. His party just got beaten in local elections in Northern Italy.

February 2, 2020

I don’t know if anyone’s ever listened to speeches by Salvini or Di Maio. Salvini exists by capitalizing on the psychology of fear. He doesn’t offer very much other than finding scapegoats to blame. I listened to the whole of DiMaio’s speech–it was an hour long–and I was really surprised by it. I didn’t see the speech itself covered in a single article whether in the corporate media or the independent media, as if nobody had even bothered to listen to it. The Calabra regional election had a very low turnout as usual, whereas ER had a high turnout. I’ll… Read more »

lynette cracknell chaplin
lynette cracknell chaplin
Reply to  RR
February 4, 2020

Thank you as an Italian for putting the facts straight. It seems that Salvini is conning not only 30% of the Italians but also many people outside the country.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  lynette cracknell chaplin
February 4, 2020

Who is the “Italian” commentator here? RR or lynette cracknell chaplin? Rather unclear commentary!

February 2, 2020

Whatever Lega’s official name, it is no longer known as “Lega Nord” in Italy. They now present themselves as “Lega” and have removed the Alps symbol. Since over half the people who live in northern Italy are from south and central Italy, they realized at some point they had to turn their anti-South focus into an anti-immigration focus if they wanted to build up their voter base. btw, that 2017 autonomy referendum was an absolute shambles in Lombardy, especially considering the huge amount of money they spent on it. There were so many technical glitches, the people manning the polls… Read more »

Reply to  RR
February 4, 2020

Thanks for the solid info, Rose. I must admit I have largely lost track of what’s going on in Italy for the last couple years, so much shit hitting the fan in the US, Pakistan, the east Mediterranean and Eurasia, I haven’t been paying enough attention to Italy and Spain.

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