At last year’s elections, the Five Star Movement became the strongest independent party, while the center-right alliance, whose dominant party is the League, received the most votes. Five Star politicians started out as anti-system Euroskeptics, campaigning for basic income and similar ideas, but there has been some suspicion of a change of direction ever since their dissident members began unsuccessfully courting the liberal faction.
The European establishment was flabbergasted when in 2018, the truly Euroskeptic, even right-wing and anti-immigration League, entered a coalition with the Five Star Movement. Shortly after his inauguration, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini went to a refugee camp to ask for a status report, then — in an unusual move for a European politician — actually began to deliver on his promises. He put together a rigorous migration and security package, and stopped NGO ships transporting migrants onto the Italian coast. In one year, the League’s popularity has doubled, while that of the Five Stars halved.
Then came the inevitable break.
Salvini said it was no longer possible to work with the Five Star Movement, and the League withdrew from the government. In the aftermath, only Salvini and the right would have wanted a new election and indeed, and President Sergio Mattarella did not call for one. Of course, the Italian people would also have had an interest, but they were never asked by the head of state. This is how the government of the Five Star Movement and the Democratic Party was born — by mocking democracy. No elections were held but a new majority was formed in parliament anyway.
The remaining illusion of the electorate that the Five Star Movement is an anti-establishment party have also largely dissipated. It became obvious that they fit into the ranks of European parties that are indistinguishable from the forces they attack except that they may dress more casually. The reality is that their real aim is to channel social tensions safely instead of actually addressing them with solutions.
The lesson of a bargain that disregards the will of the electorate shows that one should never underestimate how far the left-liberal side is willing to go to keep its power. Let us not have any doubts that these people will never hesitate to lecture Hungary either.
The left-liberal coalition may be able to weather many failures, but the witch hunt against Salvini promises to be a major challenge. The proceedings against him, which began in Catania at the end of last week, are quite absurd, and according to the court, Salvini did not even break any laws when he refused as interior minister to dock to the military ship Gregoretti carrying migrants.
The ministerial court, on the other hand, wants the head of the opposition leader at all costs, which was why they sought to wave Salvini’s immunity over his refusal to allow migrants to disembark in Italy in 2019.
But not all of their attempts have been successful. The right is fighting and getting stronger all the time, even if they have so far failed to reach the breakthrough they desire: early elections. The Salvini alliance is already leading 20 out of Italy’s 25 provinces, so their gains, while not always spectacular, are certainly consistent.
The show trial against Salvini might just be the tipping point.
Title image: Former Interior Minister and Leader of League Party Matteo Salvini attends a party rally in San Giovanni La Punta, near Catania, Sicily, Fridayday, Oct. 12, 2020. Salvini next Saturday, Oct. 3 will be attending a preliminary hearing in Catania for allegedly blocking 131 migrants on board of a coast guard ship from disembarking for 5 days in July 2019. (Mauro scrobogna/LaPresse via AP)