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Political Far-Right Faces Setback in Italy as Moderates Rise

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the European Parliament presented on February 12, 2019 his vision on the #FutureofEurope in a debate with MEPs. (Photo: CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2019 – Source: EP)
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the European Parliament presented on February 12, 2019 his vision on the #FutureofEurope in a debate with MEPs. (Photo: CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2019 – Source: EP)

“The personality of Conte is seen as one of a person who is moderate, who tries to reach compromise.”

Italy’s new left-leaning coalition government took office on Thursday in a setback for far-right populist leader Matteo Salvini’s League Party. While the new government will reverse parts of Salvini’s hardline anti-immigrant and anti-E.U. agenda, analysts doubt the coalition’s longevity.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s new coalition is composed of an alliance between the center-left Democratic Party and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, two longstanding enemies.

“We know very well that the parties which make up this coalition have had major clashes over the years, Dario Franceschini, a member of the Democratic party and the new culture minister, told the Guardian. “It is a difficult road ahead, but what matters is the spirit.”

Salvini, head of the most popular party in Italy, attempted to seize the prime ministership from Conte last month by withdrawing from his party’s strained alliance with the Five Star Movement to force a snap election. The far-right leader’s plan backfired, however, as he failed to anticipate the Five Star Movement joining with its rival party to thwart his ascent.

Markets have responded well to Conte’s new coalition and the prospect of better relations with the European Union. The former law professor’s modest temperament lies in contrast to the bombastic Salvini, whose political blunder plunged the country into chaos last month.

“I can imagine that everybody is a bit tired” of combative politics, Cristina Fasone, a member of the political science department at Luiss Guido Carli University in Rome, told the Washington Post. “The personality of Conte is seen as one of a person who is moderate, who tries to reach compromise.”

After the failed power-grab, Salvini was replaced from his position as interior minister with Luciana Lamorgese, a veteran of the department known for sponsoring more integrative migrant policies. Her appointment signals a significant change from Salvini, who used his post at the interior to cut protections for asylum seekers and close Italian ports to NGO rescue ships.

Salvini condemned the new coalition as “a government born between Paris and Berlin and from the fear of leaving their posts, without dignity and without ideals, with the wrong people in the wrong place. They won’t be able to dodge the judgment of the Italians for too long. We’re ready … in the end it is us who will win.”

Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, who is currently working to unify Europe’s far-right, told the Washington Post he believes the new coalition’s closer ties to the E.U. will push the Italian electorate to Salvini.

“I think Salvini will only get more powerful,” Bannon told the Post. “He will stand in opposition. For those in Brussels who think they have won this — all the organs of the establishment — I don’t think they have seen anything yet.”

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Peter Castagno

Peter Castagno is a freelance writer with a Master’s degree in International Conflict Resolution. He has traveled throughout the Middle East and Latin America to gain firsthand insight in some of the world’s most troubled areas, and he plans on publishing his first book in 2019.

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