Why the election timetable favours the Five Star Movement in Italy
Yesterday, I was talking to a veteran journalist based in Rome. He remarked that youth unemployment in southern Italy was 60% and that this was one of the biggest problems to deal with politically. The spectre of strong, able-bodied young men sitting idle is always something that should fill any political system with dread – because it is exactly those same young men who always lead violent protests or revolution, no matter where in the world.
But, as I see it, a revolution in Italy comes about when all other options seem blocked. And the political calendar makes this more probable in Italy. How? There are two eurozone elections coming up before a potential June Italian election. And in both cases, likely there will be no fireworks. First, there’s the Netherlands in mid-March. Geert WIlders is leading the polls. And while his anti-Islamic views get the most notice, it is his anti-EU views that are most threatening to the political establishment. In fact, they are so threatening that it is unlikely that he could build a governing coalition even if his party gets the most votes. There’s going to be no revolution in the Netherlands.
In France, where equally anti-EU politician Marine Le Pen is also leading the polls, she has the hurdle of two rounds of voting to contend with. She is likely to win the first round f you look at polling data showing her well in the lead at this juncture. But after the April first round comes the May 2nd round where everyone but her and her nearest rival will be eliminated. Who are the voters of the other candidates going to choose in the second round? All polls have said most will choose ‘anyone but Le Pen’, meaning right now – if you believe the polls — she won’t win even if she gets the most votes in the first round.
For people who want radical change in Europe, seeing both Wilders polling first and getting defeated and then Le Pen polling first and getting defeated is going to make you feel like the system is ‘rigged’. If you are an eligible voter in Italy who wants to overthrow the status quo and you see Wilders and Le Pen fail even after polling first, that’s going to give you a big incentive to make sure you vote for Five Star because — in Italy — Five Star will definitely wield power if it comes first. I haven’t seen any scenarios in which the Five Star Movement wins the popular vote and doesn’t at least have a powerful voice in shaping how Italy moves forward.
So while everyone is focused on Le Pen and France, they really should be focused on Five Star and Italy, because Italy is where the future of the euro will be decided – economically and politically.