Italian Populist Parties About to Form “Highly Unstable” Government

It’s The Real News Network. I’m Greg Wilpert, coming to you from Quito,
Ecuador. Italy’s two main populist parties, the right-wing
League and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, are finally on the verge of forming
a coalition, according to an announcement made on Monday. It’s been over two months since Italy held
a parliamentary election that resulted in massive losses for the previously governing
centre-left Democratic Party. Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella will
soon decide on who to appoint as prime minister. Until recently, the main stumbling block for
a coalition between the two parties was whether former Prime Minister Sergio Berlusconi and
his party, Forza Italia, would be part of the coalition. The League and the Five Star Movement were
able to proceed when Berlusconi said last week that he and his party would not be a
part of the coalition. Joining me from Toronto to analyze Italy’s
current political situation is Steve Hellman. He’s Professor emeritus and senior scholar
at York University in the department of politics. He has long specialized in Italian politics,
and recently wrote an extensive analysis titled, Italy: Requiem for the Second Republic, for
the website Thanks for joining us today, Professor Hellmann. My pleasure. So, now that the Five Star Movement and the
League have come to a coalition agreement- or almost, they said the final announcement
will probably be made on Wednesday. And this is without Silvio Berlusconi. What kinds of politics do you expect them
to pursue for Italy? It’s a bit of a strange coalition, considering
that the League is generally considered to be right wing, and the Five Star Movement,
in some ways, is often considered to be progressive. Where would be their areas of agreement? Well, the one thing that is absolutely clear
where they both agree is to reform, and indeed they would like to radically overturn, the
currently existing pension law. And that has been going on for decades, ever
since they introduced the neoliberal reforms to the pension plan in Italy, there has been
a lot of resistance from across the spectrum. And that’s one thing that these two groups
are absolutely in agreement about, but that’s about the only thing where there’s really
clearly one hundred percent agreement. Other issues, and the ones that are going
to be the most problematic, have to do with spending a ton of money in order to have a
basic citizenship income. And that’s something that the Five Star
Movement has promised, a basic income- that for the Five Star Movement would be mainly
to help really poor families, but also, above all, to get young people into the labor market,
or nonetheess, give them a cushion, even if they’re having trouble getting into the
labour market. For the League, the way it’s worked out
so far- the League is talking about, “Yeah we’ll give them money, but it’s going
to be a loan, and as soon as they get a job, they have to pay us back.” So, you can see right away, there’s a lot
of tension with regard to that one. What about the immigration issue? It seems like that is also another area where
there might be some agreement, and what form might that take? Well again, depending on how much money the
Italian state will be prepared to spend, and how much agreement there will be between the
Five Star and the League, it can take many forms. The League wants to establish detention centers
immediately, and pack people into them, and then get them sent on their way. The Five Star Movement, as you indicated before,
they have a bit more of a progressive take. So, even when they’re anti-immigrant, they
have tended to say, “Well, okay we want to get illegal immigrants out of here, but
if they’re refugees from countries where there are terrible conditions, we can’t
send them back to their death or to a place where there’s no civil rights for them.” So, again there, there will be some tension
both about how to spend this money and how much is spent on setting camps up, but also
simply on what the policies will be. So, given the tension that you expect, and
the contradictions between the two groups, I guess the expectation is that it’s going
to be a highly unstable coalition. Is there an expectation that it will actually
last the full legislative period, and also, who might be the likely candidate for prime
minister, and what role might they play in in terms of shaping this government? Well, good question, because the very fact
that they’ve been going back and forth there for a couple of months, fighting over who’s
going to lead the government, gives you some sense of how unstable this whole situation
really is. By normal parliamentary procedure, the Five
Star Movement would have every right to occupy the Prime Minister’s chair. Because, after all, they got more- well just
about twice as many votes as the League. On the other hand, there’s blackmail politics. And without the League, the Five Star camp
can’t sit in the prime minister’s chair. And they were insisting that they would have
the chair. So, you have this back and forth. And now what they’re trying to do is come
up with someone who’s mutually agreeable to them and who also, quite importantly, is
someone acceptable to the President of the Republic, who has to sort of give the okay,
in order to get this government on its feet. It’s going to be unstable for another- a
couple of reasons. Number one, they have a very, very thin majority
in the upper chamber of the parliament, which is the senate. I think it’s only a five or six seat majority. And they are sure to be defections and all
kinds of schemes, backstabbing, and everything going on. Similarly, Silvio Berlusconi, who’s just
gotten a court decision in his favor to get back into Parliament, because he was excluded
because of his criminal conviction- well he’s now served enough time, presumably, to be
of Italian justice standards. He’ll be back in there, and he is openly
scheming, from the getgo, to try to bring this government down before it’s even set
up. He said, “Let him go ahead, I withdraw from
any consideration here, I’ll step aside, but essentially, a pox on both your houses.” People may remember that he ran in coalition
with the League, but kind of saying, “Vote for me, I’m the grandfather of the country. I’ll be that nice stable secure person whereas
all these other big populist parties are completely irresponsible.” So, you’ve got a real witch’s brew going
on on the right. So I want to turn a little bit more to the
bigger picture. Tell us what this coalition agreement or this
coalition might mean for Italian politics, and how it would be transforming politics
in Italy? And also, related to that, why is it that
the Five Star Movement, which is such a strange kind of political movement, has been able
to surge so much, so dramatically, gaining and becoming the largest party in Italy, in
effect. Well, it’s it’s very, very interesting. I mean, this really is a almost unique phenomenon. They spread, not out of nowhere- they had
been around as a web-based movement, having very raucous, big, huge popular rallies for
quite a few years before they actually ran as a governmental party. And that was in 2013, they first appeared. And from zero votes, because they didn’t
present themselves in the previous election, they got a quarter of all the votes in the
country. So, it wasn’t like they totally came from
nowhere. But then, of course, in this last election
it got nearly thirty three percent of the votes, to- as you indicated, Greg- to make
them the largest party in the country. And that largely has to do with the huge vacuum
opened up by the lapping around failures, on the one hand, of the center left. And on the other hand, simply all the other
parties have failed to present any sort of reasonable way for Italians to see their way
out of the lethargy, the very, very slow growth, the stagnation, sense of not going anywhere
at all. And I suppose those are the primary reasons
for its great success. What’s going to happen in the future is
very hard to say. If they come anywhere close to implementing
the kind of programs that they’re talking about- the most recent estimates about what
this would cost are absolutely through the roof. So, we’re talking about, for the additional
programs that I mentioned, some of them- the pension reforms, The Basic Income Supplement,
all the other things that they promised- oh, and by the way, the League wants to have completely
free daycare for everybody, because they’ve got a natalist sort of program, where they
want to encourage Italians. So, of course, not foreigners, right, Italians
to have lots of lots of babies and be able to work in the labour force same time. So, let’s have free daycare for everybody. Well, you know, that’s of course a few billion
here and there. And as you add all these things together,
I think the closest estimate I saw is it would jack up the current budget by about ten percent
over current expenditures. Oh, and they’re also going to cut taxes
like crazy. And that’s one of the reasons that the budget
will rise so high, would be that where they’re going to get the money from is anybody’s
guess. So, for all these reasons, if these policies
were to be put into place it would no doubt really stimulate the economy in a very Keynesian
way. But at the same time, it’s going to create
innumerable difficulties with the European Union, and they are enforcers. So, it will remain to be seen what’s going
to happen in terms of how this is going to play out, because the EU, which is increasingly
unpopular, which has helped gain both of these parties a lot of votes-if the EU is insistant
on austerity and the usual package that it tries to ram down everybody’s throat, then
they create a backlash in Italy against the EU. And since Italy isn’t Greece and can’t
just be either pushed around or thrown right off the ship without any big consequences
for the European economy, that will create a very, very uncertain situation. Well, unfortunately, we’re going to have
to leave it there for now, but to I’m sure we’ll come back to you again as this coalition
shapes up and as more issues come up, to analyze and make sense of. I was speaking to Steve Hellman, professor
emeritus at the York University Department of Politics. Thanks again for having joined us today Professor
Hellman. And thank you for having me. Bye, and thank you for joining The Real News

Maurice Vega

15 Responses

  1. They need to end all immigration into Italy and expel all non-EU citizens in their country, about 800,000.

  2. Money paid out as dole gets spent straight away on rent, food, and paying off debts. It doesn't get sent to sit in a bank account in a tax haven. Dole is good for the economy.

  3. They can't abandon the country of the pope..the vatican..even though it's it's own separate entity..let's see what they do about that!

  4. Guys, relax. It's just normal italian drama. They will very likely not form a government. We'll have a technical government. Then everyone can campaign on what the experts did ''wrong'' next time there's an election.

  5. italy will exit eurozone..get back lira..lift sanctions on russia..amd stop immigration..yhey are making their way out from this mess

  6. If italy stop feeding and accomodating the migrants, and stop them from entering the country, it will be the first step for the liberation of Europe.
    Then you'll have to expel them.
    It will not be very easy, but a large number of european are watching you and asking you :"be strong you are our main hope"

  7. Obama owes Italy approx 1 Trillion dollars for causing the INFILTRATOR crisis during his administration.
    Obama pay up you puke!
    Italy must…Deport deport deport
    800,000 as well as rescind citizenship dating back several generation to clean house properly. Italy is not a sanctuary country.

  8. Dump EU they are misappropriated the funds as Merkel is a scumbag and Macron a douchbag trying to please his masters.
    Best thing that could have happened in Italy providing they begin mass deportation and demonstrate like Israel has that Italy is for Italians not INVADERS.

  9. In Italy, the tax charge is 74%. Each infrastructure, due to corruption in politics, costs 4 times as much of what it averagely costs in other EU countrys.

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