The anti-establishment forces of the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) and the right-wing League surged in Italy’s general elections on March 4, shattering the political establishment. After ending in gridlock, the election left the prospects of a coalition government unclear.
The center-left Democratic Party (PD), the governing party of Italy since 2013, captured just 19 percent of the vote in an unexpected setback for the party, according to the Guardian. The defeat prompted former-Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to resign as leader. The party’s showing was the worst-ever in its history, according to the New York Times. It was the culmination of an election cycle fueled by frustration over Italy’s high unemployment rates, economic stagnation, anti-immigrant sentiment, and skepticism towards the government and the European Union.
M5S and the League tapped into Italian voters’ frustration with the pro-EU PD. The Times reported that the election also revealed a stark disparity between the industrialized north, where the League dominated, and the deprived south, where M5S dominated. There, 18 percent are unemployed, compared to 6 percent in the north, says Reuters. M5S promised to introduce a monthly minimum income of up to $960 for the poor.
The newcomer Five Star Movement captured 32 percent of the vote. The party was founded by former comedian Beppe Grillo and Gianroberto Casaleggio in 2009 when they created an anti-establishment, anti-corruption blog, according to CNN. The growing movement rejects a disillusionment with Italy’s economic stagnation and mainstream, traditional politicians. It is both a novelty and rejection of the establishment.
The Five Star Movement stands for environmental protection, public transportation, free access to water, sustainable development, and the right to internet access, CNN reports. NPR reports that the Five Star Movement (M5S) is also opposed to globalization, free trade, the EU, and child vaccination, which it believes causes autism.
The party has also been embroiled in corruption scandals, according to the Telegraph. Renzi described M5S to the French RTL radio network as a “Noah’s ark of money launderers, fraudsters, and scroungers.”
The League, an anti-migrant far-right party, captured 17 percent of the vote. Along with its coalition, including Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Forward Italy, the party took 37 percent of the vote, the leading bloc.
With no single party or bloc capturing enough votes in the election to command a majority and govern alone, the election thrusts Italy into a state of limbo as it looks to cobble together a government and to decide which parties will compose and lead it.
“We have the right and the duty to govern,” said Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio after declaring that his party was “the absolute winner.” According to Reuters, he believes that M5S should lead. Nevertheless, it cannot do so without forming a coalition.
Yet, the other major parties do not welcome a coalition with M5S. Renzi firmly dismissed any potential of a coalition with either M5S or the League, said Italy’s the Local. League leader Matteo Salvini also dismissed a possible coalition between M5S and the League, reported the Times. The coalition seems unlikely, as the League’s anti-immigration stance clashes with M5S’s left-wing support.
The Five Star Movement and the League will meet with President Sergio Mattarella, who will ultimately decide the makeup of the new government. The new Parliament will meet for the first time on March 23.