Salvatore Murtas is a media professional and Conservative activist.
It’s now a week after the Italian elections, and I am yet to read an accurate analysis of the result, its significance and implications.
The majority of commentators, both at home and abroad, have decided to focus on the shifty political offering of those who finished on top, and the populist nature of their propaganda. And yet virtually everyone fails to note that this is clearly a protest vote, a reaction to the failure of the country’s political elites, equally from centre-left and centre-right, to put the national interest at the top of the agenda; a general outcry for neglecting its people and supinely acquiescing to the diktats of the EU for the last 20 years.
It is only in light of this evidence that a once unthinkable epilogue has become reality.
So let’s take a look at the numbers in the House. In a few words, the vote tells us that: the Five Star Movement is the first party with the highest number of votes (32 per cent, worth 221 seats); the centre-right coalition which includes the League (formerly the Northern League), Forza Italia and Fratelli d’Italia polled at 37 per cent, worth 260 seats; the centre-left coalition with Democratic Party, +Europa and several minor parties received 22 per cent of the vote, enough to win 112 seats.
With a required majority of 315, it’s easy to see that the only way for the country to get a government requires some pretty unpalatable choices.
Beyond the maths
Numbers – in politics just like in life – always tell the truth. And although the latest trend across western democracies is to claim victory in spite of empirical evidence (ask Clinton, Corbyn and Berlusconi, just to mention a few) since we live in an age of fluid reality – a reality that can be interpreted to suit anyone’s needs – Italian election results show a desperately complicated yet very clear picture. Because forming a government should not be necessarily Italy’s priority. Politicians must first ask themselves a very simple question: with Sunday’s vote, what message did Italians send?
The message is one: two anti-establishment parties, Five Star Movement and the League (newly-renamed for this latest elections to attract votes also in the south), cleared the board, taking between them over 50 per cent of the vote. Translated, over half of the voters say: enough! Enough with EU impositions, enough with the economic crisis that is still gripping Italy (32 per cent youth unemployment, which rises to over 50 per cent in the south), enough with uncontrolled, mismanaged immigration, enough with a union which is but in name.
If political elites dismiss this concern as irrational, then their decline will be unstoppable, and the success of so-called populist parties will continue to rise.
The counterproof is in the pudding. The last governing party, the Democratic Party, led by Matteo Renzi, the former Prime Minister, got a kicking, dropping from over 40 per cent at the last European elections down to 18 per cent, one of the worst results in the Italian left’s history.
Similarly, a once-overwhelming Silvio Berlusconi, at the helm of the centre-right coalition, managed to poll only 14 per cent. What do they have in common? They have both been in government, they are both pro-EU (Berlusconi went as far as meeting Frau Merkel in late 2017, and praising the EU), they are both considered responsible for Italy’s demise. Result: on Sunday Italians rejected both Renzi and Berlusconi, and it’s difficult to see any role for either in the country’s political future.
As usual, Italy is incredibly good at making life difficult for itself. An electoral reform was passed months before elections that had the sole intent of preventing a single party getting enough seats to form a government. The product is a mix of majoritarian and proportional representation that has failed to produce a real winner, which risks plunging the country in further turmoil or stalemate.
One of the most lucid Italian commentators, a seasoned journalist named Enrico Mentana, is of the opinion that despite the numbers suggesting the possibility of a grand coalition between the Five Star Movement and the centre-right, Italy will be forced into fresh elections due to their political incompatibility. To this, I would also add the risk of violence from supporters of both sides.