University of California, Los Angeles

Italy and Their Ongoing Struggle by Armida Reyes @ University of California, Los Angeles

A woman walks past electoral posters of the 5 Star’s candidate Luigi Di Maio and the Forza Italia party in Pomigliano D’Arco, near Naples, Italy, February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

There are many different events happening all around the world at the moment that affect people on the daily whether through politics or economics. Italy is currently going through some political situations where currently they do not have a prime minister. The New York Times released the article, “Italy’s Surging Populists Run Into a Political Muddle. But for How Long?” written by Jason Horowitz. In the article, Jason writes about how Italy is under a “Political Revolution” because no party has currently won support to form a government and become the prime minister. This is something they have been facing for years because people are starting to feel discouraged from all the politicians running for office.

There have been two populist parties that have emerged from these elections which are the Five Star Movement and the League, which is a hard-right populist (Horowitz). The leader of the league is Matteo Salvini and for the Fifth Star Movement is Luigi Di Maio. Both of these populists stand for the same laws and ideas, which are to “raise the retirement age and easier to hire and fire workers” (Horowitz). Italians believe the populists can create a faster economic growth, create more opportunities for young people, and dismount public debt things politicians have been failing throughout these past years (Horowitz).

This situation falls on the laps of the Italian president, Sergio Mattarella. He must find someone who will be able to run the government and pass a confidence vote through the parliament in order to give power to one party to become the prime minister (Horowitz). Therefore, many voters are standing next to one of the populist parties because they believe they can create the change they want to see in Italy. The situation Italy is currently undergoing in their elections has similar concepts learned in class.

First and foremost, Italy is under a president-parliamentary system (Bertacche). A president-parliamentary system is one in which there is a president and also a parliament in the country. The president gets to elect the prime minister in a parliament. Which is why, Sergio Mattarella has this situation on his laps because he has to find someone who will become the next prime minister. The prime minister is similar to a legislative branch in which they work together with the parliament to pass laws.

The electoral system Italy has is Proportional Representation (Bertacche). This means the percentage each party gets is the amount of seats that party gets in the parliament. Therefore, Italy is currently undergoing the situation in whether who will be prime minister next from the parties present in the parliament in which the Five Star Movement and the League have become popular.

However, many populists have emerged and have been trying to win for a while. The way populist parties emerge through political parties is by advocating that they are for the people. They tend to only represent a certain group from the population. Populists also make people disagree and hate the politician and party that is currently in power. There are two economic crises that allow for populism to rise which are recessions and infrastructures. This is apparent in Italy because the populist groups are standing for economic growth in which this becomes appealing to certain groups of people.

Therefore, in Italy these populists are going against forming coalitions because they want to be the ones to hold all the power in Italy. Coalitions are a way in which parties that have similar beliefs, come together because they know they have no chance in their party from actually winning. The populists from Italy did not want to create coalitions with other parties because they wanted to stand for themselves. Coalitions usually form in order to allow a party to win majority in order to pass a law because it will allow for people with similar beliefs to have majority. In Italy, if a populist group wants to see a win, they will need to create a coalition with the Five Star Movement (Horowitz). There are many different ways this event in Italy represents a democratic erosion.

Democratic erosion is when democracy is declining and falling apart. Italy has gone through this because they have fallen apart and have fixed their electoral system so many times but still can’t get it right for their country. Also, Italy is currently undergoing democratic erosion because of the populists that have been growing within different parties. This has allowed for people to create two parties in general that stand for certain groups of people and allow everyone to choose a side.

People are going against these other politicians that used to hold office which shows how democratic erosion is happening. They are distrusting the old politicians to believe the populist because they make themselves sound trusting and promising. Democratic erosions happen through populists or other parties rising that tolerate or propose violence but also want to give more civil liberties. Democratic erosions and populists happen because of structural theory due to the way the country was being governed puts pressure on people to go against them.

        Therefore, one can see the way populists try to gain power in order to allow for them to have the total power to which laws and acts should be passed. The populists in Italy have made the country split into two sides voters either stand for the right or left party (Horowitz). Italy’s president and the new parliament will meet on March 23rd in order to decide who could possibly win as prime minister (Horowitz). This could push people to protest and stand up for their beliefs making their voices heard. Now, to keep up with the news and see who ends up winning the seat as prime minister.



Bertacche, Marco. “How Italy’s New Electoral System Works”. Bloomberg Politics, 2 Mar. 2018, Accessed 10 Mar. 2018.

Horowitz, Jason. “Italy’s Surging Populists Run Into a Political Muddle. But for How Long?” The New York Times, 5 Mar. 2018, Accessed 10 Mar. 2018.

Horowitz, Jason. “In Italy Election, Anti-E.U. Views Pay Off for Far Right and Populists”. The New York Times, 4 Mar. 2018, Accessed 10 Mar. 2018.




    March 15, 2018 at 7:48 pm

    Thank you so much for this post!
    Reading your post I completely agree with populism being a way of democratic erosion, which is what I was essentially getting from your argument. I want to go off of what you were saying about there populist leaders wanting complete power instead and that being the reason why they aren’ t forming coalitions. These populist leaders from what you described are going against the current government, having complete different ideas and policies, to me it sounds like if they weren’t in a parliamentary government they could have an attraction to authoritarianism. As you stated, “Democratic erosions happen through populists or other parties rising that tolerate or propose violence but also want to give more civil liberties”, this sounds a lot like what previous historical authoritarian leaders supported and could even parallel what current political leaders try to pursue now, those that resemble an authoritarian regime. Also, just to clarify this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a good or a bad thing depending on the types of civil liberties that these political leaders are trying to push forth.

  2. Victoria Hill

    May 7, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    Interesting ideas! Populism has definitely been on the rise throughout Europe, but it has taken a particularly dysfunctional form in contemporary Italian politics, perhaps in part because of the entrenched corruption that marked Berlusconi’s tenure. Add in the impacts of the economic crisis, neoliberal economic policies, and broader mismanagement, and it is no surprise that large portions of the electorate are disenchanted with the traditional political parties. As you point out, though, populism poses a very real threat to democratic practice; Jan-Werner Müller points out that by claiming to speak for the ‘nation’, populists can simultaneously avoid campaigning on contestable policy positions and delegitimize any critique as coming from someone who is either outside the nation or hoping to harm it. One thing that seems to mark these current populist movements, like Five Star, is the lack of deep party organizing among the electorate. They are hastily constructed, but do not provide the opportunity for voters to engage meaningfully with their representatives, or to organize around political agendas for the things that they want. Should these populist movements fail to deliver political stability and economic growth, there is a real risk that voters will become so disenchanted with politics that they stop voting altogether. After all, the work of political organizing and building parties from the ground up is slow, person-to-person work, and after so much chaos, there is a real risk that ordinary citizens may lose their appetite for that sort of hard, slow work if other forms of political participation haven’t yielded meaningful results.

Leave a Reply