What happened to the fascist parties in the Italian elections?

The story of some fascist parties running for the Italian election was all over the international news just a couple of weeks ago. During the electoral campaign this new wave of fascism and anti-fascism movements created a tense climate in the boot-shaped peninsula. Here’s a snapshot of who these fascist parties are and what happened to them during the Italian elections.

Who are the fascist parties?

Although the League may look like an extremist right-wing party, especially when its leader Salvini was shouting about razing Gypsy’s camps and praising Mussolini, they are not the party bringing on the fascist propaganda. There are two parties that want to bring some of the fascism values and Mussolini’s ideology back and fit it into Italian democracy.

CasaPound was born in 2003 as a movement. They occupied council houses and live by the words of Ezra Pound, 20th century poet and supporter of Mussolini, therefore the name Casa (meaning house) Pound. They define themselves as the fascists of the 21st century, meaning they program is inspired by some of the fascist values, but they want to apply them into a more modern and democracy context. Their main ideas are to take Italy out of the EU, to create an Italian currency and to put an immediate stop to immigration. They aim to a total control of the state on matters as pensions, schools and big industries in the main sectors such as iron, energy and transport.

Forza Nuova is a more traditional fascist party. Their three core ideas are taken directly from Mussolini’s ideology: God, patriotism and family. They want Catholicism to be the state religion, which is not in the program of CasaPound, but apart from this they share some of the same views: migrants out of Italy and Italy out of the EU.

Their slogan is similar as well: Italians first” for CasaPound, Italy for Italians” for Forza Nuova. As the migration crisis continues, this attitude has made them quite popular in the small communities who really felt the impact of this phenomenon.

 

What do they want? 

They want to raise their popularity and protest against the “establishment”. This according to CasaPound candidate, Simone Di Stefano, who broke the conventional political silence to declare in a live Facebook video that they are the only useful vote against the old parties and the technocratic government.  “Vote for us. If only to see the faces of our opponents when we get into the Parliament.”

How did they do in these elections?

In order to gain a seat in Parliament, they needed to get a minimum of 3%. CasaPound didn’t get over 0.94% and Forza Nuova reached only 0.38%. It may not seem a great result, but they’ve actually tripled their number of votes compared to the 2013 elections, when CasaPound got 0.14% and Forza Nuova barely scratched 0.04%. It’s also important to remember that these parties weren’t running in all the Italian regions in the same way as the main parties, and they weren’t supported by any mainstream media. Acknowledging the defeat, both of the parties declared that they will run again for the next elections. 

How did the parties’ candidates reacted to the results?

Luca Leardini is the Forza Nuova candidate to the Chamber of Deputies in Padova. According to him the party was obviously disappointed by the outcome, but he said that “they will keep on fighting”. CasaPound Chamber candidate in Pordenone, Luca Franceschini said that they were of course disappointed of not getting even close to the desired 3%, but they did pretty well on the local vote. “I got around 2’200 votes. CasaPound was the most voted after the mainstream parties like Lega and 5 Stelle.” The party leader, Simone Di Stefano blamed the outcome on the Italian media, that according to him was censoring them. However, this won’t stop them from planning the run for the next elections. According to Mr Franceschini, CasaPound is growing every years in numbers and means.” We will definitely get in the Parliament for the next elections.”

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Former separatist party joins the mainstream

Matteo Salvini presenta il nuovo simbolo per il sud ItaliaThe right-wing League party, formally the Northern League, is predicted to receive a higher vote share than Berlusconi’s Forza Italia in terms of seats.

The main slogan of the League and its leader Matteo Salvini is “Italians first”, and its main promise is to expel illegal immigrants from Italy.

The League aims to do on a national level what the party is already doing locally in the Lombardy region. There they’ve allocated funds to help divorced parents, to make nursery school free for children, and to help disabled and elderly people who are not able to be self-sufficient.

Other policies in the League’s programme are plans for the south to bring more work, supporting the birth rate, enforcement of national security and recovering of national sovereignty for Italian foreign affairs.

But the party has been the subject of several controversies. The leader of the League, Matteo Salvini, has been accused of blasphemy in recent weeks. During a recent rally Salvini tried to convince his audience, saying a vow over the Bible and carrying a rosary. He also quoted the Bible, declaring that if the party win “the last shall be the first”.

Amnesty International has released a report on the worrying climate of hatred in Italy. It found that 95% of xenophobic phrases present on social media are from center-right parties, including the League.

In a recent interview with TG1, Mr Salvini said “All the regular and decent immigrants that live in our country don’t need to worry at all, those who should be afraid are illegal immigrants, smugglers, rapists and criminals who came to Italy not escaping from war but bringing war into our country. I am going to expell them all.”

Expert Analysis: Dr Daniele Albertazzi

Dr Daniele Albertazzi is Postgraduate Research Director at the University of Birmingham’s Department of Political Science and International Studies, and Senior Lecturer in European Politics. He spoke to Italian Election Live to give his analysis as the first exit polls came in.

On trusting the exit polls: “So far it’s impossible to see how the percentages translate to seats, and that’s what matters.”

On the rise of populism: “Italy remains a populist paradise. As we were expecting, the Five Star Movement is the largest party, but it appears to be the largest by a very large margin.”

On the centre-right: “At the moment it seems that Forza Italia and the League are neck and neck;. if that’s the case then it’s all change within the centre-right. The government led by Berlusconi always involved the League only as a minor partner; in 2008 Berlusconi’s party was six or seven times the size of the League. If Five Star fail to form a government then the centre-right will have to find somebody else to govern with. The centre-right may have enough seats to govern alone, but if Five Star got around 13% of the vote then that’s unlikely.”

On the Five Star Movement: “They’d be the strongest party in any coalition. There’s no chance in hell that the Democratic Party will agree to govern with Five Star; after a defeat like this it would be a suicide note for them. To play a supporting role to a new party would mean completely losing any kind of identity they have left, and basically disappearing in the next two or three years.”

On the League: “It would be difficult for Five Star to form a government with the League, they have too many differences. They have very different attitudes to freedom of movement because 70% of Five Star’s voters are left-wing, so in the long-run I think they would suffer. The two most likely scenarios are either some kind large coalition or somehow the centre-right manages to gather a majority.”

“This is as much as we can say at the moment; with this electoral law we don’t know how these numbers translate into seats. So at this point, who knows?”

Expert Analysis. D’Alimonte: “No party or coalition will get an overall majority as the current electoral law doesn’t fit Italy’s needs”

Roberto D’Alimonte, Senior Professor of Political Science at LUISS University in Rome says that it is very unlikely that in the 2018 Italian Election either a party or a coalition will have an overall majority that will allow them to govern alone. “The problem lies in the Rosatellum, the current electoral law. Italy needs a more majoritarian electoral law that includes the possibility of a second ballot”, says D’Alimonte.

At the moment, the first exit polls show the Five Star Movement as the largest party with 30.02% as a vote share and the Centre Right as the largest coalition with 37.04%. If the situation remains like this and no one gets the 40% needed to have an absolute majority, the likely outcome will be a hung Parliament with different coalitions. The exit polls are still ongoing and the final results are coming soon.

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Chronicles of an election day in Italy

 

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This election day was certainly not the smoothest in the Italian election history.

The new electoral system, which is more complicated than in the past, caused long queues at the polling stations. They were mainly due to new anti-fraud measures, which made the voting operation longer.

In Palermo, Sicily, the wrong ballot papers were printed and some polling stations opened late. Rome was the last area to publish preliminary turnout data, at 3pm instead of 12pm. There was a mistake in some ballot papers in Mantova as well – the name of the leftist candidate to the local election Giorgio Gori was not printed on them.

There were a couple of funny moments as well. Alessandro Di Battista, candidate for the Five Star, went to the wrong polling station, apparently forgetting that he had moved since the last election. Pierluigi Bersani, candidate for Free and Equal (Liberi e Uguali) and previous leader of the centre-left, mistakenly put the ballot paper in the ballot box himself (the president of the polling station was supposed to do it).

Finally, Silvio Berlusconi was contested by a topless Femen activist while he was voting. “Your time is up,” she had written on her body.

Mr Berlusconi has been accused of having sex with a minor and has often been accused of sexist comments. Last week, during an interview with the BBC, he told the journalist who was interviewing him that no one would ever marry her.

Is Silvio Berlusconi back in the game?

Silvio_Berlusconi_Portrait

Silvio Berlusconi is one of the most iconic and controversial figures of Italian politics. Elected Prime Minister for the first time in 1994, he was in charge for a total of 3340 days – that’s over nine years.

Italy is now voting to elect a new Parliament, which will then give a vote of confidence to a potential new government appointed by the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella. 

Silvio Berlusconi is renowned worldwide for the debauchery of his sex parties, the infamous ‘bunga bunga’. The question everyone is now asking is: “Is Berlusconi likely to be the new Italian Prime Minister?”.

His face has been on every Italian television channel for the past months and his name is on the Forza Italia logo. But this has raised controversy in the Italian political debate. The Five Star Movement called it a fraud against the Italian electorate because Berlusconi is banned from public office.

In 2016, he was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption. The judgement was commuted, but a 2012 Italian law excludes people with a criminal record from holding public office for 18 months after the passing of the sentence.

So what’s Berlusconi doing in the Italian political scene? He has been positioning himself as the “kingmaker” of the centre-right. For months all the parties in his coalition have wondered who he was going to appoint as the potential Italian Prime Minister.

On 2 March 2018 he finally made his choice: Antonio Tajani, the President of the European Parliament. Former journalist and official of the Italian air force, Tajani has worked with Berlusconi’s government since the first term in 1994.

Who are the Five Star Movement?

The Five Star Movement has never been this close to the Italian government. But where did the movement come from?

Five Star was founded in 2009 by comedian Beppe Grillo and the late web enterpreneur Gianroberto Casaleggio. It was the evolution of a protest movement against corrupt politicians after 2007, when thousands of people gathered in Italy’s squares during the so-called ‘Vaffanculo Day’.

The movement then began the long process to becoming a proper political party.

What is their political orientation? They have long said that they do not belong to either the right or the left. They have been called populist because of a series of promises, such as a universal basic income, a measure that would cost around 30 billion euros.

They brag about their internal democracy because decisions are taken online by the party’s members. However, their web platform, Rousseau, has been attacked by hackers, and the election candidates have not been chosen by Five Star’s members.

On migration, a hot topic in Italy, they have promised to make the system of repatriating migrants easier and to hire more people in order to speed up the asylum application process.

Who is their leader? Mr Grillo has recently distanced himself from the party. Their candidate for Prime Minister is 31-year-old Luigi Di Maio. He’s been trying to reassure Europe that if Five Start wins the election Italy will still be a reliable partner. But it seems unlikely that they will be part of the next government, because so far they’ve said they refuse to ally with any other party in a coalition.

Five Star has been accused of being too close to Russia and according to a Buzzfeed investigation is a major source of fake news in Italy.

The party has positioned itself as a protest movement, but if it lives up to predictions of getting the highest vote share in today’s election, will it lose its anti-establishment appeal for good?