Will Italy’s Populists Upend Europe?
After months of pressure to reach a compromise, Italy's Five Star Movement and League party have formed a new government. The fear now is that their administration will establish a new template for left- and right-wing populists throughout Europe to challenge pro-EU reformers.
LONDON – “They are trying to stop us with the usual blackmail of rising spreads, falling stock markets, and European threats,” wrote Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s League party, on his Facebook page. “This time,” Salvini insisted, “change is coming.”
Now he has formed a new government with the leader of the populist Five Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio. And, as Salvini’s statement suggests, the coalition between M5S and the League could represent a new Euroskeptic movement capable of exacting revenge on financial markets, the European Union, and German fiscal hawks.
In fact, Salvini has already declared “round two” in the larger battle between Italian populism and the European establishment. Round one ended in November 2011, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel and then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy leveraged financial-market concerns to force former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi out of office. And since then, populist Euroskepticism has been on the rise, particularly in Italy, owing to its frontline position in the migrant and refugee crisis.
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