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
The face of democracy? 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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