Italian Elections: Another Step Towards European Future
Superseding the temporary caretaker government leading Italy since Prime Minister Renzi’s resignation in December 2016, upcoming elections in March once again challenge domestic and international issues. The dominant topics at stake concern the Italian economy, banking system, and migration crisis.
Commonly, elections are considered a chance for Italy to ease the threat the country’s public debt poses to global financial stability. With Britain leaving the European Union, Italy will become the EU’s third-largest economy, adding additional pressure to a country that still struggles with low growth, high unemployment, and unstable banks.
Thus, different candidates loyal to the three main branches of Italian politics, namely the center-left, the center-right and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, seem eager to promise significant changes that challenge the range of realistic possibilities within domestic politics. For example, Silvio Berlusconi, former long-term president and the leader of the center-right party, made sweeping claims that attempted to distinguish him from the “bunch of novices with no political experiences”, as he described the Five Star Movement.
In public statements, the 81-year-old billionaire predicted that “we will have brought Italy’s rate of unemployment to below the European average, which is 8.7 percent” and defuse the “social bomb” posed by around half a million unauthorized immigrants in the country. Political analysts remain skeptical of these claims.
While known for their more moderate stances, Five Star Movement leader Luigi di Maio, as well as members of the center-left party, maintain a close focus on the immigration issue. Growing tensions between the 1.7 million Muslims living in Italy and the sector of Italian society frustrated over a “migrant invasion” recently came to a head on February 3rd when an extremist gunman wounded migrants in a drive-by shooting.
However, to the relief of other EU leaders, none of the parties seems to support an anti-European agenda, especially when an estimated 34 percent of Italians that would like to exit the EU. While it is unclear whether Di Maio would not push for an Italexit referendum in case of his political success, recent polls suggest the chance that no party will be able to form a government on its own. Unless there is a willingness to form a coalition, the political stalemate will continue until the next election period.