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Italy’s populists flex their muscles

Even after populist parties swept to victory in this month’s Italian elections, most observers contented themselves with the notion that somehow one of the traditional parties would reassert control by joining (or leading?) a coalition with one of the victors. Such a partnership would, theoretically, provide a moderating influence on the supposedly immature and rambunctious populists. But the two main populist parties, Lega and M5S, shocked Italy’s pundits by teaming up to elect the leaders of Parliament by themselves this Monday.

The message should be clear: either you accept one of our party’s leadership or we’ll rule together.

Formal coalition talks start April 3. We shall see if the Democratic Party, the only party that can by itself decide whether a centre-right coalition led by Lega’s Matteo Salvini or M5S’s Luigi DiMaio takes the reins of government, wakes up in time to heed the call.

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