by UnHerd
Wednesday, 3
February 2021
Explainer
11:44

Italy’s democratic dilemma

Will an anti-establishment party bow the knee to Italy's foremost Eurocrat?
by UnHerd
Draghi is just another Emmanuel Macron Credit: Getty

In 2018, the Italian people voted for change. The centre-Left bloc led by Matteo Renzi was comprehensively rejected — losing 227 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Two populist parties — the Five Star Movement and the League — won a majority of seats between them and formed a new coalition government.

Together the partners chose a university professor called Giuseppe Conte to serve as PM. In 2019 the Coalition partners fell out. The League was booted out of government and Conte cobbled together a new coalition composed of Five Star and their former enemies on the Europhile centre-left.

Now, that coalition has collapsed too. Renzi was determined to oust Conte and finally got his way. However, Renzi doesn’t have the support to get the top job himself. Instead, the political establishment has turned to Mario Draghi, the former President of the European Central Bank.

So, to recap: the Italian people give Eurosceptic populists an absolute majority in 2018, but by 2021 the PM chosen by the resulting coalition is replaced by the Eurocrats’ Eurocrat. And all without the inconvenience of another general election! This is not democracy.

Of course, democracy may yet throw a spanner in the works.

Five Star and the League still hold a majority of seats between them. Draghi will not be able to form a government without one of the two parties. This is unlikely to be the League — a party of the hard Right. So that leaves Five Star, whose ‘broad tent’ populism is more adaptable. And yet it would a stunning irony if this anti-establishment party, which swept to office on a wave of people power, bow the knee to the ultimate establishment functionary.

However, if they force a general election instead, the likely beneficiaries are the League and the Brothers of Italy — another national populist outfit.

Indeed, the choice facing the Italian people as a whole is not an enviable one. They must either submit to the EU’s viceroy or turn to the democratic, but dodgy, Right.

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Warren Alexander
Warren Alexander
1 year ago

When will the so-called left/liberals understand that it is their distaste for the nation state, their dislike of ordinary people, their disdain of the views of the majority that are sending people to right-wing parties? To add insult to injury, they describe any party to the right of centre as “extreme right” in an obvious attempt to smear anyone who supports them.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago

Those Italians politicians were elected by the Italian people.

Nick Faulks
Nick Faulks
1 year ago

So, direct rule from Brussels again. For how long will the Italian people put up with this?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Nick Faulks

How did you come up with direct rule from Brussels? Draghi can only be PM if the political parties in Italy (the ones that were elected) sign on to the deal

Nick Faulks
Nick Faulks
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Who do you think Draghi works for?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Nick Faulks

For the ungrateful Italian people and irresponsible Italian (democratically elected) politicians.

Derek M
Derek M
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

“……………the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?”

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek M

Italy has elected many governments (60 since WW2)! Surely by now we should try the other way…just once.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
1 year ago
Reply to  Nick Faulks

He’s a clever pragmatist.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

When the EU toppled Berlusconi because they suspected him of wanting to take Italy out of the euro, the next 4 PMs were EU appointed. Salvini broke the mould.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago

Salvini wasn’t PM. He also promised his voters that he WOULD NOT join 5 Stars in a coalition government. Guess what he did?

Michael Cowling
Michael Cowling
1 year ago

ascribing to the EU the toppling of Berlusconi is like ascribing the control of the world to shape-shanging lizards. Pure fantasia!

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Nick Faulks

Well they’ve put up with it for most of the last 10 or 12 years or so. And they will probably continue to do so, whether they vote for it or not.

Joe Francis
Joe Francis
1 year ago

Why is the right “dodgy”?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Francis

Can’t speak for the author but the right/Salvini (or the left) in Italy has proven itself to be unserious about governance.
I would vote for Salivini but that is the problem with populists – they are not serious about the affairs of the state. Tweeting is easier and much more fun.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Salvini did show himself to be serious. That is why he got toppled.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago

He pulled his party out of the government hoping to force an election.
Basic facts should not be hard to grasp.

Derek M
Derek M
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

He was the only minster who did what he said he would do

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek M

He also said that he would not enter in coalition with 5 stars during 2018 election. Guess what he did?!

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Francis

It isn’t. The establishment is dodgy. It routinely smears the orthodox right as “extreme” whilst pursuing its own Utopian, extremist policies in defiance of public opinion. One only has to look at the conduct of the EU with regard to referenda, governments it doesn’t like and economic policies of which it disapproves to see that. And on migration, when it is clear that unprecedented, transformative levels of demographic change are destabilising society; when it is obvious that they bring heavy security risks in their train; when it is plain that they involve no economic benefit, all the left-establishment can do is to engage in the nastiest smears of all. And why does it persist in such damaging procedures? Because it is – essentially – Marxist, or “left-modernist” to use Eric Kaufman’s useful term. It has an extremist, anti-democratic agenda of its own. This is not a “conspiracy theory”; it merely identifies a massive case of “trahison des clercs”, or a process of ideological colonisation taking placing spontaneously within the ranks of the elite. And current democratic arrangements have proven pitifully slow in halting that process. But they must if we are to enjoy what Douglas Murray has described as a “soft landing”.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Francis

I was about to make the point. They merely wish to control their own borders, make their own laws and produce their own steel and medicines etc.

Support for leaving the EU is now running at about 45% in Italy. This is much higher than support for Brexit in, say, 2014. Crucially, unlike the UK, there is substantial support among the young for leaving the EU, because they have seen what the euro has done to their job prospects etc.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

They merely wish to control their own borders, make their own laws and produce their own steel and medicines etc.

So those Italians don’t want the freedom to move to Germany ?
Italian governments keeps savings Alitalia (4 times as of 2021) – and yet all the polls (that you like to quote) show that the Italian people want nothing to do with the company!
And the same applies to the steel industry…

Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

And who doesn’t want the freedom to move to Germany (to work as a waiter or shop assistant)?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

Clearly the Italians do. And quite a few Brits (Berlin).
The losers in Sunderland didn’t have it (being losers and all that) in them to go “out there” and use Freedom of Movement.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Still sneering and scoffing at your own people?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago

It is called the truth!

Rybo Adders
Rybo Adders
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Thats the truth according to you eh?

Derek M
Derek M
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

That’ll be why there are so many EU citizens in losers’ Britain compared with Brits in the wonderful EU, of course there are as many Brits in Australia as in the EU. Mind you how does wanting to live in your own community make you a loser? I suspect most of those EU citizens in the UK would rather be at home with their families in Spain, Greece, Poland or indeed Italy if their economy could offer them a decent job

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek M

Those people that migrated (we have many studies about migration) to UK are go getters.
Living and working for 2/3 years in St. Anton (Austria) is not Gulag Archipelago.
Those EU Migrants (BTW) are mostly in places like London and not Blackpool or Sunderland.
You can “heroically defend” the British people or – crazy idea but give it a try – you can ask “why didn’t British workers take advantage of Freedom of Movement”?

Derek M
Derek M
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Perhaps you should consider the possibility that most people like to live in their own community with their own family and friends and in their own language and culture; people are not just economic units of production. You seem to be one of those people who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing, as the saying goes. Most of the EU economic migrants would probably have liked to do the same if their own economies hadn’t been ravaged by things such as decades of communism and its aftermath, or more recent ideological idiocies such as the Euro.

Nick Whitehouse
Nick Whitehouse
1 year ago

Don’t worry, I am sure Mrs Merkel has told Mrs Fonda Lying who to appoint.
It will be with the blassing of that “hard left”, “dodgy” Five Star party, who are more “adaptable”

By the way what does “adaptable” mean in this context?
Ignore democracy?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago

How do you know that?

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
1 year ago

Adaptable means trim, trim, trim to stay in power with the globalists.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

Quite apart from the issue of bowing to the Viceroy of Eurodom, Draghi was known at the ECB for making his decisions in quite a lonesome way, not really consulting very many people before acting. Just to add an extra little anti-democratic “frisson” into the mix.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

No-one else could have managed what Draghi managed at the ECB.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

Well quite. I think he’ll be the proud holder of the world record in can kicking for some time yet.

Andrea Re
Andrea Re
1 year ago

The article is rather misleading.
The (formerly known as Northern) League came third in the elections and they are certainly not natural allies of the 5 star movement.
The way the article is phrased makes it sound like and anti-establishment block had been elected, but that is not so.
The first Conte government started after rather prolonged discussions and was far from being a done deal.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea Re

They also promised their voters that they would not enter in coalition with each other – but they did.
Don’t expect from Unherd (or the commentators here) basic grasp of facts. Like the woke that they like to mock commentators here are all about “feelings over facts”.

Andrea Re
Andrea Re
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Oh, absolutely.
I think they would get together pretty much with anybody these days.

Derek M
Derek M
1 year ago

The Italian people can choose to vote for the ‘dodgy’ right or not as they see fit. It isn’t the ‘dodgy’ right who destroyed democracy in Italy, it’s the establishment, the EU and its local collaborators. That’s why Italy hasn’t had a democratically elected PM since the last one was deposed in an EU/Markel coup

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek M

Yes, Berlusconi (democratically elected by the Italian people) was such a success story!

Derek M
Derek M
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

That should surely be their choice, but clearly you don’t support democracy, although I’d also suggest that your favoured alternatives haven’t turned out too well either

J StJohn
J StJohn
1 year ago

‘He’s an effective compromiser’ is a compliment in Italy. As in England. Unlike the France or Germany for example. The English, however , have a line in the sand; if you push over that, the Englishman removes all compromise from the table (and Brexits). The Italian will compromise til the cows come home; that’s why he always ends up a mess.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  J StJohn

Unlike the France or Germany for example.

How many coalition governments have ruled over Germany since unification?

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
1 year ago

Draghi is a bit different from the usual run of the mill globalist. He is competent, for a start.

Michael Cowling
Michael Cowling
1 year ago

This is an awful article. First, there is an obvious failure to understand the Italian constitution. If “this is not democracy”, then the problem is the constitution, not this particular change of government, because the constitution requires the president to see whether another government can be formed before “elezioni anticipate” are held. Second, since the current Italian state began shortly after WW2 ended, there have been a huge number of changes of government, most of which had nothing to do with the results of a parliamentary election. and most of them have been “rimpasti”, reshuffles; the Democrazia Cristiana played musical chairs with ministries for decades. So this is the way things are done there. Why protest now? Does “unherd” have irons in the fire?

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
1 year ago

Italy seems to be on a clear trajectory where at some point it will leave the Euro *by mistake * probably, if not the EU. The lack of any real internal debate in the EU about the possibility that they may just have some faults; that Britain wasn’t just the 100% at fault partner in the breakdown that ended in Brexit, makes it almost inevitable crises will keep recurring in various countries that the EU will keep responding to in the same way.

That isn’t a stable position, and currently there are almost more countries unhappy with their lot than happy.

It’s possible the vaccination mess, were it to extend far past a point where the UK was actually unlocking and London and all our other cities opening up while Europe still had some lockdown or suppression measures in place, then that could trigger further upheaval sooner than many seem to imagine.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

Does anybody know what proportion of the people vote in a general election in Italy?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

73% in 2018

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
1 year ago

I’ll never forgive Draghi for helping block Eurostat incorporating an owner-occupied housing (OOH) component based on net acquisitions in the HICP. He doesn’t deserve to be Prime Minister of Italy. He doesn’t deserve any kind of political career. He shouldn’t write his memoirs. If he does, I won’t read them.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago

What a load of crap!
5Stars (the biggest winner of the last election) and La Lega (3rd biggest party) promised their voters that they would NOT enter in coalition with each other. But they did. Was that undemocratic?
Coalitions is how Italian governments have always worked.

In the meantime Draghi has to save Italy from Italians.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

What a profoundly bigoted, offensive, stupid thing to say!

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Did i trigger you?
Italy is Italy because of Italians (warts and all that…).

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

No. You simply disgusted me. And if Italy owes her character to her people then who are you or anyone else to presume to know better than they what is good for them?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

I never presumed to know what is best for Italians or Italy. It is simply my opinion and I am fully aware that no Italian cares at all.

Rybo Adders
Rybo Adders
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

But surely your words are the truth eh?

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Out of 55 comments posted here I have blocked 21. They are all from Jeremy Smith.
He is best blocked and ignored.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Agreed.

Jake C
Jake C
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Draghi is a nightmare,he’ll impose austerity and privatisations crushing the italian economy.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Jake C

What you call austerity (and Italy will not get any) I would call it generational responsibility.
What we have now is best described by the story of Saturn eating his children – Goya has a fantastic painting on the subject.

Andrea Re
Andrea Re
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Lega is the THIRD party.

Andrea Re
Andrea Re
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I went to check in case I remembered wrongly, but indeed the League came third, not second in 2018.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea Re

You are right.