BBC quotes Matteo Salvini just now on Italy’s apparent new Liga-free coalition saying “this will be a government chosen by Brussels.” Mr. Salvini has only to look in a mirror to see who derailed his government.
Windy and gray on our side of the hill today. Looks like an indoor weekend in the southern Appalachians.
The theme of today’s weekend reading recommendations is big European countries in turmoil.
– The Divided Kingdom by Helen Dale
– Labour’s Brexit trilemma: in search of the least bad outcome by Laurie MacFarlane
– How Ireland Outmaneuvered Britain on Brexit by Dara Doyle
– Notes on the Yellow Jackets by Claire Berlinski
– Macron Fans the Flames of Illiberalism by Pankaj Mishra
– Two Roads for the New French Right by Mark Lilla
– What Will Follow Emmanuel Macron? by Sarah Jones
– From Sans Culottes to Gilets Jaunes: Macron’s Marie Antoinette Moment by Sylvain Cypel
– How Macron gave Italian populists a boost by Silvia Sciorilli Borrelli
– The Dangerous New Face of Salvini’s Italy by Walter Mayr
Enjoy your weekend. See you next week.
I think this quote, from Will Italy’s Populists Upend Europe? by Mark Leonard today at Project Syndicate, makes the salient point with an economy of words:
“An Italian government combining two very different strands of populism will pose a serious threat to the European project, because it could form the core of a new federation of populists and Euroskeptics that have hitherto operated separately. No longer would Euroskeptics be fragmented into different tribes of anti-immigrant politicians on the right and anti-austerity politicians on the left.”
Seems to me this is the key to making an effective (if potentially frightening) populism adhere. Can opposite poles hold together?
I’m with the less austerity camp, and I find some level of “common currency abuse” on the part of “German fiscal hawks,” as Leonard calls them. I’m less inclined toward the xenophobes and God-and-country nationalists at the other pole. Perhaps they feel the same in reverse?
Can this coalition hold together?
Italy is the European spot to watch this summer. That is, unless the May government falls.
How about a morning coffee catch up on today’s Italian elections?
Now, what people are saying:
Italy’s Election Could Change Everything, Scott B. MacDonald argues. If Eurosceptics win a majority and cobble together a coalition Italy could face a referendum on whether to leave the eurozone.
That’s doubtful. Politico.eu sees things differently.
The Guardian has a long article on Italy’s political fringe, The fascist movement that has brought Mussolini back to the mainstream. And Tim Parks writes that just over a month ago the body of an eighteen-year old girl
“was found in the countryside near Macerata in Central Italy. Soon the police had arrested a Nigerian accused of selling the girl drugs. On February 3, a white man, previously a local government candidate for the Northern League, drove through the town firing some thirty shots from his car into immigrant shops and bars, wounding six people.”
And thus the stage was set for an ugly five weeks of immigration-centered contentiousness. At the center of that particular stage is Matteo Salvini, 44, leader of the Lega (formerly the Northern League), a xenophobic, racist bunch who fear an “Islamic invasion” in Italy. (Here is an interview.) Salvini has gathered up all the last minute press with headlines like the most dangerous man in Italy.
At the same time, today’s election is huge for the anti-establishment, poll-leading Movimento Cinque Stelle, or 5 Star Movement, the formerly insurgent party founded by Beppe Grillo, a stand-up comedian who is himself ineligible to hold office because of a negligent homicide conviction.
M5S politician Virginia Elena Raggi is Mayor of Rome, and Chiara Appendino is Mayor of Turin. Because its members now wield actual power, to decidedly mixed results, M5S is in awkward transition, governing while campaigning as insurgents.
Part of the problem is that they aren’t governing all that well. Raggi was indicted two weeks ago on favoritism charges that sound familiar: lying about cronyism. In Raggi’s case it was appointing her former assistant’s brother to be Rome’s tourism chief.
Grillo keeps a lower profile than during the rise of the movement. The party’s hopes are pinned on 31 year old Luigi Di Maio, a Vice-President of Chamber of Deputies in the Italian Parliament. Conventional wisdom holds that even if M5S were to get the most votes it would be difficult for them to cobble together a governing coalition.
(M5S background here from Bloomberg. The Atlantic explains How Italy’s Five-Star Movement Is Winning the Youth Vote: “They can’t find jobs, and the centrist parties have failed them, opening space for the populists.”)
The former PM Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party (PD) polls in second place but it ain’t got no juice. Slim Odds.
And then there’s this, from a different Tim Parks article titled Whoever Wins Won’t Govern:
“We are the country of … the decree that never becomes law and the investment that is always inadequate; in the rare event that everything goes smoothly and parliament gets something done we are the country that can rely on the courts to undo it. Italian power is impotence.
Whoever wins, they will not govern. All will go on just the same. Most key policies will be decided outside Italy.”
By which he means the European Union.
The EU is a wholly fascinating polity. Choose your corner. In the northwest and southeast the United Kingdom and Greece slash and tear at Brussels’ rule. In the northeast, Finland is grateful the EU has its back, given its long Russian border, while in the southwest Portugal appreciates the €1.8 billion more that it receives annually than it contributes to Brussels (2016). And in the middle, the yet-to-be initiated Balkan countries both want in and don’t.
My Italian friends were the first to assure me, seriously, that Donald Trump could become the American president. This was nonsense, I assured them, but they had seen it. They had lived the Silvio Berlusconi experience. Now as usual, Italy faces a dizzy field of Communists, anarchists, stuntmen, the common paralysis and … Berlusconi.
The prospects of a return of Berlusconi invite despair. One would hope that having once elected a clown parody of a statesman, the good people of (insert your country name here) would run him out of town.
This election is worth staying up late to watch. Happy election day.
Speaking of morning coffee, got time to buy me a cup?
Today the center-right French Republicans have chosen the harder right of the two candidates to offer up to contest Marine Le Pen, if you assume as I do that the chances of the left to make it to a runoff next April are vanishingly small. François Fillon is an earthquake, I think, for socialisty France, in that their center right has chosen its most supply-side, trickle down candidate as their country’s best hope against the Le Pen scourge.
I’d say, with Brexit, Trump and Fillon, we see a trend. Three longish articles for you, first on next weekend’s Italian referendum, in which polls indicate a lurch toward populism.
After that, in March it’s the Netherlands’ turn.
And finally, it may not be too bold a prediction that by next autumn, Angela Merkel’s time may be past. You heard it here first.
The face of the western democracies this time next year is taking shape and I’m not sure how well we’ll get through it.
While Michelle Flournoy has apparently taken her name out of the running for U.S. Defense Secretary, it’s worth noting that there are currently five female Defense Ministers in NATO: Italy’s Roberta Pinotti, Albania’s Mimi Kodheli, Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen, Norway’s Ine Marie Eriksen Soreide and Jeanine Hennis-Plasshaert of the Netherlands. That’s a record.
There are also female Defense Ministers in South Africa, Montenegro, Ecuador, Kenya, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Guinea-Bissau.