July 12, 2016    4 minute read

Italy’s Cyclical Politics

Political Games    July 12, 2016    4 minute read

Italy’s Cyclical Politics

Something in the Italy’s political landscape seems to have changed since Movimento 5 Stelle has been established by Beppe Grillo, whose ideas of pure democracy and innovative social-oriented structure of the party are leading to a sort of new way of politics.

The new movement has not only been having an astonishing political success lately but has also surprised voters with its leader’s ambitious goals. In fact, since the birth of his new party, Beppe Grillo has been claiming the willingness to compete for governing the country. Moreover, today it does not seem so strange that after a few years with a solid delegation in the parliament and numerous political fights, Movimento 5 Stelle has just conquered two strategic cities: Turin and, more notably, Rome.

But how did this little, new, dissident and fastidious movement get to this level of consensus so fast? How did Beppe Grillo and his fellows steal votes from the Left, the Right, and the Moderates? Well, the answer might be related to an interesting recurring scenario, dating back to the Italian political landscape in 1994.

The Politics Of The ‘Wrong’

If one dwells on the different campaigns by this party’s candidates running for mayor in the last elections (and especially that of Beppe Grillo), it has been crystal clear how all of them had a specific character upon which they have shamelessly stressed. The message? All the other parties have been only harming and damaging the country and its cities, whereas the new wave are the ones proposing good and great things only in vain. This could be called, with a little bit of artistic license, “the politics of the wrong”. This way of conducting a campaign, together with absolute mastery in using social media (a point for them actually, given the digital era in which we are living), has won them two of the most important political cities in the country.

So one could claim that their ideology asserts itself against the others. However, are we sure to be able to identify a real political idea behind Movimento 5 Stelle? Shall we, instead, simply (because no, it is not hard to do) describe it as emphasising other parties’ recent failures (discrediting their successes) and citizens’ discontent about these parties, to appear much stronger and more attractive to the average voter? If this is the case, the real force of the movement is not its own ideas and people, but to feed on someone else’s weaknesses.

Ultimately then, the structure of Movimento 5 Stelle’s campaign can be easily outlined: citizens should try something new, relying on unclear arguments or unanswered questions, but moved by new people who have not failed yet, instead of continuing to trust old, fraudulent, deceptive parties.

Now, back to the original claim: there is a clear path connecting 1994 and 2016. The former was the year in which Silvio Berlusconi was elected Prime Minister for the first time, with his brand newly founded party “Forza Italia”. Of course, everyone knows what he became for Italy during subsequent years. The way the famous business person conducted his campaign bears many similarities to today’s Movimento 5 Stelle. His strategy was to repeat that it was time for some ‘fresh air’ in politics: he continuously pointed out that other parties had failed too much in the past and that people deserved a better government for their country. He was, of course, the only one able tackle Italy’s problems. If there is a difference between him and Grillo’s party, it would probably be that Berlusconi did everything much faster, but that was probably because his added value in those years was the enormous amount of money he had.

Normally, similar paths bring to the exact same result. In this case, that would mean having a 5 Stelle prime minister in the next elected government, after a slew of charges against officials such mayors and parliamentarians. Furthermore, in a broad sense, that would mean the chance (not the certainty, to be clear) to have a second Berlusconi-style era for Italian politics. Are we sure that is what Italy needs to overcome its structural problems? One would think not…

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