After the Italian elections, many in Germany are asking themselves: how could the Italians vote on the right again? But the attempts at explanation – “don’t want to start,” “lack of cleverness” – don’t go far enough.
Yes, Italy actually did it, it elected the right (post-neo-para-fascist) Giorgia Meloni. And this despite Ursula von der Leyen threatening to put Italy back on the right track – “We have the tools” – if the Italians didn’t choose wisely. Giorgia Meloni will have thanked her: With her admonition, Ursula von der Leyen gave the right-wing “Brothers of Italy” a decent vote shortly before the election.
And now that everyone is shuddering and considering whether they shouldn’t go to Holland for their autumn vacation instead of booking a cheap Airbnb in Venice, the question arises: Are the Italians really as right as they are in the most European media are presented?
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Because it falls through the grate that the votes for the left camp are almost as many as for the right. There is also little mention that the largest party in Italy is that of the non-voters: more than a third (36 percent) of Italians did not vote. The reason is their frustration with the illusion that has lasted for decades, also known as “trasformismo”: like a pseudo-giant that gets smaller and smaller the closer you get to it, the same faces are always hidden behind the illusion.
Even the Meloni government is not as new as it was made out to be in the election campaign: In essence, the same faces will govern Italy again that governed the country from 2001 to 2006 and from 2008 to 2011. Without any notable success. The names of the parties change, the protagonists remain the same. Also this time. Meloni has been a member of parliament since 2006 and signed all of Berlusconi’s laws.
Although the Italians cannot be accused of not having tried to escape the endless loop. They try it in practically every election: in 1994, when the established political parties found themselves caught in the orcus of history and the Milan bribery scandal – the former PCI was weakened after the fall of the Wall and the Democrazia Cristiana could no longer prove itself as a bulwark against the communists because overnight there were no more communists – shortly after the attacks on Falcone and Borsellino, Berlusconi managed to seize power (with the help of his right-hand man, Marcello Dell’Utri, who has meanwhile been convicted as a mafia accomplice), and established himself as the “new political Kraft” to present: “He is too rich to steal from us” said the Italians and voted for him.
In the decades that followed, all opposition politicians wore Berlusconi out – not in rebellion, but in rapprochement: for decades there was no real opposition in Italy because it had come to an excellent agreement with Berlusconi.
They were years of inciucio, of shuffling behind closed doors, years of stagnation as cultural and economic progress passed Italy – a country ruled by a cynic who had quickly managed to shine with a left-wing opposition which, on the outside, was as combative as if it were still living in the days of the industrial revolution, but at heart was driven by the same contempt for the electorate as Berlusconi.
It is precisely from this blind spot, the lack of a democratic opposition, that the Five Star Movement emerged. In 2013 and 2018, the Italians voiced their contempt for this flirting, with which the five-star party entered parliament – and were mocked for it by all the schoolmasters of German politics: Peer Steinbrück was appalled in 2013 that “two clowns won” in Italy and Alexander Graf Lambsdorff missed the wisdom of the Italian voters. Yes, cleverness, cleverness! Damn it!
Apparently it can only be found in German minds. When it became apparent before the 2018 elections that the five stars, as the largest opposition party, could win the elections, the “world” warned of the “Italian slapstick” and knew that the majority of Italians did not want “a difficult start” at all.
In the podcast, the “SZ” explained what is commonly understood by Italian conditions, namely “chaotic formation of a government, unclear power relations in parliament, weak prime ministers, intrigues in parliament, government falls”. And again the Italians did not vote as the German press would have liked.
Because the Five Star Party achieved only meager results in their five years in government on their core issues (social rights, fight against the mafia and the environment), the votes for them have now practically halved (15.24 percent) and they would still have each other more halved if the leader of the Democratic Party, Enrico Letta, had not made the mistake of refusing to form an alliance with the Five Stars. And with the Democratic Party fully committed to Draghi and neoliberalism, Giuseppe Conte was able to present the five stars as the only alternative progressive force – and achieve that success at all.
The PD got a meager 19.06 percent (almost as bad as the worst result ever achieved by Matteo Renzi in the 2018 election: 18 percent). Enrico Letta is history. The Lega also fell (8.78 percent): in Veneto, their core region, the “Italian brothers” got twice as many votes as the Lega. In short: With the election of the right, Italy has once again tried in vain to escape the endless loop – and to elect a “new” party that is not one at all.
It would be nice if that could also be read in the German media and not just in copy