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Italy's Many-Faces of Populism.

J.N. PAQUET photo
Italy's Many-Faces of Populism.
Second stop in our exclusive series of articles reporting on the way populism has been spreading in the world in recent years. We turn to fascinating Italy. A country with a deep political tradition, but also the birthplace of some of the most troublesome populist characters and political movements.

For nearly over a century, from Benito Mussolini’s National Fascist party to Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing nationalist Forza Italia and Beppe Grillo’s anti-establishment Movimento 5 Stelle, Italy seems to have been the theatre of a mighty political experiment, in which populism has unfortunately often rhymed with the self-delusion and the arrogance of political leaders who either led directly the country to the downfall of democracy or turned its economy into an utter failure. Let’s take a look at the current situation.

Right-wing businessman Silvio Berlusconi served as Italy’s Prime Minister for nearly 10 years thanks to his parties Forza Italia and Il Popolo della Libertà and thanks to his overall control of the media. Berlusconi was elected on the promises that he would protect Italy from the Communists, that he would continue pro-western free market policies and that his government would create “one million more jobs”. Berlusconi used his control over the media to launch massive campaigns of electoral advertisements. He who controls the media controls the minds.

Instead, Silvio Berlusconi’s legacy will forever be his total failure to get Italy’s economy to perform during all the years he was running the country, the promises that did not materialise and his trials for corruption, fraud and for paying an underage prostitute for sex. It has also been claimed since that, while in charge of Italy’s affairs, the Cavaliere largely benefited of enormous amounts of money and received presents from Vladimir Putin’s Russia, in exchange for favours and influence.

Another type of populism has surged since Berlusconi’s exit, with the emergence in 2009 of the Movimento 5 Stelle (or M5S, Five Star Movement), both a left-wing and right-wing ecologist, anti-corruption and Eurosceptic protest party, created by comedian Beppe Grillo. In the 2013 General election, the party received 25.55% of the votes, with 109 deputies and 54 senators.

In a recent post on the party’s blog titled “The Games in Rome? No thank you!”, a party Senator, Elio Lannutti, clearly explained that the M5S was against Rome hosting the 2024 Olympic Games (There are four candidates to host the Olympics in 2024: Rome, Paris, Budapest and Los Angeles). “No to cathedrals in the desert,” the new mayor of Rome said, knowing too well that the people of the capital were not very enthusiasts at the idea of the city hosting the Games and claiming that Rome would be left indebted and with redundant sports facilities.

The Olympic Games controversy was not the only topic Raggi found herself in trouble with after being elected mayor. She, for instance, chose a head of environment who was under criminal investigation and denied knowing about...

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