Italian Elections: A Strong Message without a Clear Majority

Social Policy

The outcome of March 4th elections in Italy is a mirror of our times. The relationship between voters in Europe and the political parties has been severely damaged during these years of economic crisis. And Italy seems to be a perfect example of this situation. Irrespective of the positive or negative results reached in the past five years by the center–left Democratic party (PD) exiting government, Italian people clearly called for a radical change in the political landscape. Certainly, the economic reform, the employment and social benefit related issues played a big role in this “revolutionary” vote, that aim at opening the era of the “Third Republic” in Italy, as asserted by Luigi Di Maio, the leader of the new biggest single party Movimento 5 Stelle (32 per cent of the votes).

Youth unemployment has decreased, but a third of all people under the age of 25 are still without work. Unable to find jobs at home, young Italian graduates keep on leaving the country to find opportunities abroad. This phenomenon is common in many southern countries in Europe and, also helped by the EU education and free movement policies, appears now to be structural. Furthermore, even if the economic growth is coming back, it is not reducing inequalities. On the contrary in many countries, including Italy, inequalities are still widening. All these factors envisaged the perfect framework for the growth of the Movimento 5 Stelle.

For sure one of the main popular Movimento 5 Stelle’s proposal is the introduction of a citizenship income, thanks to which the unemployed would receive €780 par month, showing that they are actively looking for a job; while the workers with a salary below the poverty line would receive the difference to reach this sum form the government. Despite this measure could cost several billions of euro to the State balance, it is surely a charming proposal for chronic unemployed people and for the so called NEET generation (Not engaged in education, employment or training). As reported by many Italian medias, many people in the South of the country went to public offices requesting forms to receive the citizenship income, even if the new government is far from being set up.

Economic revolution undoubtedly has been one big reason behind the excellent outcome obtained by the Movimento 5 Stelle in the South poorest regions of Italy. On the other hand, also the center–right coalition, especially the Lega Nord led by Matteo Salvini, gained a lot of consent. During the electoral campaign the coalition’s leaders stressed the need for a radical change after years of EU led economic policies and uncontrolled migration flows. In fact, the center–right coalition obtained 37 per cent of the votes, divided among the three major parties led by the Lega (with 17.5 per cent). On the economic side, they propose a big cut of taxes and the dismantling of pension reforms and other measures coordinated with Brussels.

From an economic perspective it could be highlighted that the programs proposed by the Movimento 5 Stelle and by the Lega are two radically opposed approach: the first is based on public expenses and the other rely on the cut of taxation. As regard the Eurozone then, there was in both parties a gradual shift in their positions: at the beginning of the political campaign the Movimento 5 Stelle and the Lega were strongly supporting exiting the Eurozone through a referendum (which, however, is not possible according to the Italian Constitution); then they softened their position by focusing on demands for reform in the Eurozone.

Finally, the ruling PD party came third, hit by the widespread anger over persistent high youth unemployment. But despite the clear success of the new and populistic wind in these elections, it will be really difficult to form a new government, because a coalition agreement is a must for any party who wants to rule. No one of these parties gained enough support to govern the country alone. The first meeting of the new Parliament is scheduled for March 23rd and by then, the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, will have to decide what to do. It is likely that he will give the responsibility of forming the new government to parties that are more capable to form a clear majority. In any case, it seems that – in order to reach this new coalition agreement – those parties will have to abandon the more radical and populistic solutions of their programs.

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