Populist parties vie for power in Italian parliament

The results from the Italian general election on March 4 indicate populist triumph, although who will ultimately take control of the government remains unclear.

Direct democracy proponents of the Five Star Movement (M5S) party obtained 32.6 percent of the popular vote, giving them the largest share of seats in the Italian parliament; however, the party still lacked enough parliamentary seats to control the government.

The center-right coalition—made up of the anti-immigration party Lega Nord, Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the Brothers of Italy Party—obtained 37 percent of the vote. Despite the political differences between these conservative parties, their coalition prevents the M5S from taking full control of government activity.

The Democratic Party, headed by Matteo Renzi, lost the election in dramatic fashion, but a coalition between the Democratic Party and M5S could be a possible solution for those on the Italian political left.

Both the conservative coalition and M5S are popularly considered anti-establishment and Euro-skeptic. In response to Italy’s political movement away from the European Union, and in praise of the right coalition, French conservative Marine Le Pen tweeted “a warm congratulations” to Italy.

The election results strike a blow to French President Emmanuel Macron’s plan for European “integration” and “mutual support,” and it has led some to believe that German Chancellor Angela Merkel may be Macron’s only ally in establishing centrist, E.U.–focused economic reform.

Election results have caused many refugees throughout Italy to fear deportation. Silvio Berlusconi pledged during his campaign to  deport 600,000 illegal immigrants from Italy, but with an undecided governmental constituency, actual immigration legislation may not happen for weeks or even months.

Racial tensions have also continued to rise. On March 5, a 54-year-old Senegalese man named Idy Diene was shot six times in Florence. Many have decried his murder as a racially motivated, xenophobic act. This shooting followed a racially-motivated shooting in Macerata three weeks prior and has prompted protests throughout the city. Many have linked this violence to the anti-immigration rhetoric of the conservative coalition, and some have called for the public condemnation of xenophobia in Italian politics.