On March 4, the majority of Italians doomed the country. In the past year, Italy has witnessed a clash between a rising neo-fascist movement and the left, and you can take a guess as to how that turned out.
The centre-left coalition advocated for the former premier Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party and the longtime European parliamentarian Emma Bonino’s +Europe. Their programs included increasing minimum wage and help for the unemployed and the less wealthy. They also strongly advocated for a more integrated Europe and a plan for the integration of migrants.
The centre-right coalition’s major parties are Forza Italia and the (North) League. Forza Italia marks Silvio Berlusconi’s comeback to politics. You may have heard his name in the past, as he’s been ruling the country on and off for two decades. Italy’s very own Donald Trump, Berlusconi is a media mogul and entrepreneur who funded a party and won the elections in three months back in 1994. A known criminal for corruption and tax fraud, he was finally removed from politics in 2011, amidst a whirlwind of sex scandals (just to mention one, he would host orgy parties with minors). The only reason he’s not in jail is that at 81 he’s too old to be locked up. Berlusconi was literally banned from public office, yet somehow, he’s running again.
The North League dropped the North from its name and pretended not to be a secessionist party with very clear and vocal racist undertones (more like overtones) under the leadership of Matteo Salvini. Instead of focusing his hate on Southern Italy, like in the past 30 years, he directed it against the LGBT+ community as well as the migrants coming from third world countries. His last public declaration at a rally before the elections was literally about how Disney shouldn’t make Elsa a lesbian in Frozen 2. The League’s political agenda is to abolish civil unions (the closest thing we have to same-sex marriage, legalized in 2016 by the Democrats), exit the EU (Italexit?!), and stop the wave of immigrants. He proposed a “mass cleaning with strong methods” from the streets of Italy, which sounds dangerously similar to what Hitler and Mussolini did back in the day.
The sentiment shared by the entire right wing is that immigrants are the ultimate evil if they’re not white. Salvini wants to introduce border controls, since apparently he’s never looked at a map of Italy long enough to realize that the south, where the immigrants arrive, is surrounded by the sea -you can’t build a wall or stop the boats from coming. The guy obviously admires Trump a great deal. His political slogan literally says “Italians first.” But it might as well be “Make Italy Great Again.”
The third political party that dominated these elections is the anti-establishment: the populist Five Star Movement. The party was founded 8 years ago by Beppe Grillo, a comedian who figured that angrily calling every politician names would get him votes. They like to call themselves a transversal party, and they don’t have to act like they’re right or left wing: they’re their own wing, so people don’t have expectations when they come up with anti-immigrant sentiments, vaccine skepticism, European skepticism, and then change their mind a month later when the political climate shifts. Their candidate premiere is Luigi Di Maio, a 31-year-old man with no degree and little political experience.
Hate and fear won the elections, because the centre-left coalition gained only 22%, while the Five Star Movement crushed them with an unexpected 32%. The centre-right surpassed them with a 37%, of which 17% went to Lega. No decision has been taken yet as how the government will be formed since no party and no coalition holds the absolute majority. An unlikely alliance will have to be made unless Berlusconi can bribe more than 50 deputies and convince them to join his ranks (easy, he’s done it in the past).
It shocks me that Salvini and Di Maio, the most likely candidates for prime minister, didn’t even complete their undergraduate education, in a country like Italy, the cradle of knowledge, where culture is all we have left. They are prepared to lead the country in the name of hate, racism, xenophobia, and homophobia. They come from a place of ignorance and draw on their electors’ ignorance in return.
Populism is exactly how fascism became a thing the first time around. But how could we let it happen again in an age where everyone has access to free education and information? How could we choose hate and lies over cooperation and transparency?
Here we go again, kids. Fascism is back. The Prime Minister may even ban Frozen 2 from cinemas when it comes out because, apparently, being exposed to LGBTQ+ representation is the reason why Italy’s population isn’t growing.
Here’s to biting our fingernails as we await the final decision.