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Pivotal Italian Election On Sunday, Immigration Central Role in Italian Politics

Italian politics faces a pivotal day on March 4. Italians will elect a new national government, that is if any party wins enough seats in the Italian election to form a government.

Despite having multiple leading contenders, it’s possible no political party will win enough seats in the Italian election to set up a new government. Italians just installed a new electoral system called the Rostellum, which is complicated to say the least. Thirty-seven percent of the Italian parliament are elected by a first-past-the-post voting method where only one candidate is chosen. The remaining 63 percent are allocated by a “largest remainder method” which is a proportional based voting system.

The Italian election also marks the comeback of veteran politician and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi. Once barred from running in 2013 due to a tax eviction scandal, the 81-year-old is still seen as a favorite in Italian politics among the older demographic.

Berlusconi, the former AC Milan owner, has been trying to rebrand his image since the tax scandal. Part of his political platform is to market himself as the politician who can protect Italy from the populism that has risen throughout the world.

Despite the increasing world wide populist and anti-immigration sentiments in Europe, far-right parties did not win the polls in the Netherlands nor France last year. Anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim parties gained momentum in Austria despite not winning the majority of votes. The influence of populism lives on.

Immigration takes center stage in Italian politics and on Sunday’s election day.

From January 2017 to June 2017, the numbers of immigrants arriving in Italy by sea rose 20 percent, as reported by PRI. Italy’s neighbors, Switzerland, France, and Austria, shut their borders as the numbers of asylum-seekers sky-rocketed.

More than 5,200 migrants have landed in Italy since the start of 2018 so far. More than 600,000 immigrants have arrived in Italy over the last four years. In 2017, 2,832 migrants died from drowning while on their way to Italy.

The immigration issue has become a big concern for Italians and a central topic in Italian elections and politics. 

Libya’s role in Italian politics.

The immigration issue in Italy in many ways stems from the problems that have befallen Libya since the fall of Ghaddafi. Immigrants and refugees are flooding Libya with hopes of finding a better life. But when a better life in Libya is not found they end up traveling to Europe via the help of smugglers, according to a report released by UNHCR in 2017. A human trafficking/slave trade industry has also sprung up in Libya adding to the problem.

Since the fall of Ghaddafi, Libya has been made up of many factions fighting for their own their interests which has left the country poorly equipped to combat their immigration problems and the growing Libya slave trade.

Libya needs countries like Italy and other European Union nations to form cohesive governments and establish pro-active immigration policies to help Libya come up with solutions to the immigration crisis. Simply closing their borders, as some European politicians advocate for, will leave Libya stranded and won’t stem the flow of immigrants attempting to travel to Europe over dangerous routes.

But can Italy even elect enough members of the same party to form a cohesive government of their own? And will the Italian election signify another surge in the world-wide populist and anti-immigration movements or will it suggest the populist surge is beginning to recede?


Yasmeen Rasidi

Yasmeen is a writer and political science graduate of the National University, Jakarta. She covers a variety of topics for Citizen Truth including the Asia and Pacific region, international conflicts and press freedom issues. Yasmeen had worked for Xinhua Indonesia and GeoStrategist previously. She writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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