The death of populism was proclaimed in the English press after the Italian local elections. Perhaps.
The Times, for example, said that the elections “appear to have brought down the curtain on an experiment in anti-establishment politics that inspired populist movements around the world.”
The Guardian asked if what has occurred signals “a renaissance” for the left.
The Italian centre left, whose main component is the Democratic Party (PD), retained Milan, plus Bologna and Naples. This left may win in Rome, Turin and Trieste, which go to a second ballot later in the month.
The far right is ahead after the first round in Rome and Trieste. And—led by Silvio Berlusconi’s Forward Italy—it won in Calabria.
Five Star had a bad election. In Turin, where it had the outgoing mayor, it took 9 percent of the vote compared to 30 percent in 2016.
It was punished for joining the establishment. This is also true of the far right League who had a poor election especially in Milan—its powerbase and home of its leader Matteo Salvini.
The League has lost support ever since Salvini joined the unelected national unity government. It came to office in February, led by the ex-boss of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi.
Italy’s main fascist party—Brothers of Italy (FdI)—is currently the most popular party in the polls. It refused to join the government and is reaping the benefits.
At the 2018 general election, it got just 4 percent of the vote. Yet for many months it has led the polls nationally, and is currently on about 21 percent, just ahead of the League and the PD.
This makes its leader Giorgia Meloni as likely head of a coalition with the League and Forward Italy, polling roughly 7 percent, after the next general election. This must be held before summer 2023.
In Rome, the FdI candidate Enrico Michetti got the most votes in the first round with 30 percent for mayor.
Rachele Mussolini, granddaughter of the dictator, standing for re-election as a Rome city councillor, got more votes than any other candidate.
FdI saw its share of the vote increase in Milan, Turin and Bologna.
Meloni tries to present the FdI as a traditional right wing conservative party.
But the party emblem continues to have the flame symbol of neo-fascists loyal to Mussolini.
And Meloni once declared that she had “an easygoing relationship with fascism.”
By campaigning on a joint slate with the League and Forward Italy, FdI has built respectability. But by staying out of government it is cashing in support.
This also emboldens the more openly fascist organisations, such as House of Pound and New Force.
The bankers’ government thinks that with the drop in the League’s vote the centre will hold.
But there are signs that may not be the case.
A protest turned violent in the centre of Rome last Saturday.
Among the estimated 10,000 people at the rally in Piazza del Popolo were the fascist New Force group and its leader Giuliano Castellino who addressed the crowd.
The demonstration was organised in protest over a requirement for workers in Italy to have the “Green Pass” certificate. This shows that people have been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from Covid-19.
Hundreds of protesters attempted to march on the prime minister’s house and were met with tear gas and water cannons from the cops.
Others broke into and occupied the headquarters of CGIL, Italy’s largest trade union.
Perhaps not the “renaissance” the Guardian had in mind.
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