Italy 2018: Politics Shaped by Social Media

We are worried here in Italy with the way politics are playing out, a big mess. I just wrote about it on Impakter, here is the opening:


Italian politics is notoriously complex and unfathomable. One reason is that Italy often ventures in uncharted waters, foreshadowing the future. Today, Italy is the first big democracy in the West where social media gave birth to a leading party, the Five Star Movement (Movimento Cinque Stelle, M5S). Twenty-five years ago, Italy was where a media mogul famously won power: Berlusconi, an early version of Trump, served four times as Prime Minister between 1994 and 2011.

M5S won 11 million Italians, a third of the votes in the elections, two months ago. Since then, gridlock.  One of the worst in Italy’s convoluted political history.

Will M5S be better for Italy than Berlusconi?

Italians are weary, they all remember Berlusconi’s broken promises of reform, the endless series of sexual scandals (the Bunga-Bunga girls), the deeply embedded corruption that led to his being barred from running again (that prohibition was just lifted, he is now free to run again).

In short, since Berlusconi, the businessman turned populist-politician, appeared on the political scene, two decades of growth were lost.

With M5S, things may turn out differently but it doesn’t look promising. So far, M5S has given the Italians the usual spectacle of politicians hungry for power, with Luigi Di Maio, the young M5S leader initially demanding the job of premier - despite his youth (he’s 31) and total lack of academic credentials (he’s a college dropout), work or government experience.  

How come M5S can’t express better candidates?

The Populist Roots of M5S

The party was anti-establishment and populist from the moment it was founded in 2009 by Beppe Grillo.  Who is Grillo? Very different from Berlusconi, he was in his fifties when he emerged on Internet, a (failed) comedian and political satirist, exiled from public television, but  a (successful) blogger whose main appeal was with the discontented. And back then, there was plenty of unhappy people.

The 2008 Great Recession had spread to Italy, causing unheard-of levels of unemployment, one the highest in Europe, especially among the young (over 40 percent). Waves of immigrants hit the coasts, turning into a tsunami with the Syrian war. And Italy, shackled by the rigid Euro rules, could not solve its problems with a quick devaluation, as it had regularly done with the Lira in the previous century.

Result? A strong dislike for Europe and hatred for the Euro, seen as the source of all the problems. Beppe Grillo was supremely adept at exploiting this discontent.

...

The rest on Impakter, click here.
0