Italy will at last have a new government more than two months after elections and the hung parliament and senate they have produced. The new coalition will bring together the Five Star Movement of Beppe Grillo, a purebred populist, anti-conformist and anti-establishment force with a diffuse agenda, and the Lega Nord – the old-timer in the regionalist, micro-nationalist political spectrum and one of the first modern, anti-EU, regionalist political forces. It aimed at dismantling the Italian Risorgimento, taking away the rich and developed northern Italy from the poor and less developed Mezzogiorno, southern Italy.
The new Italian coalition could be called a "monstrous engagement" between two forces that are disassociative on everything, or almost everything. Both political forces "proposed Giuseppe Conte, a no-name, a civil lawyer and academic, as the country's new prime minister to lead their populist government. Luigi Di Maio, Five Star leader, and Matteo Salvini, the League leader, told Sergio Mattarella, Italy's president, in separate meetings at the Quirinal Palace on Monday that they had chosen Conte as their compromise candidate for prime minister," wrote James Politi in the Financial Times. "The scenario that terrified many moderates and EU supporters has materialized," added Ariel David in Haaretz. According to him, "Italy's new populist rulers love [Vladimir] Putin, hate immigrants and are confused about Israel." That is a rather exhaustive definition regarding the program of the new government.
The new developments in Europe, especially illegal migration, have put quite a strain on Italy. Practically all the sub-Saharan economic migrants transit through Libya, where there is no state administration to speak of, and try to reach Lampedusa island.
Lampedusa, only 130 kilometers from the coastal area of North Africa, is a small island of 20 square kilometers and an Italian territory. Therefore, once migrants reach EU soil, they have the opportunity to ask for political asylum. It is very difficult for any European country's administration to determine whether the migrants are really persecuted in their own country or if they are simply attempting to enter the immense single market. As a result, the process of getting political asylum is long and in the end, very difficult to procure. If a migrant is refused entry into the EU, most of the time the authorities do not have the moral ground to send them back because their country of origin is hardly a democracy.
Here is Italy, forced to deal with a migrant population who do not wish to stay in Italy. Italy has been left alone by the EU to deal with that precise migrant issue. The issue has not really disrupted the Italian economy, but it feels that way to the public and gave fuel to populist movements.
The only thing that unites Lega Nord with the Five Stars movement is their hatred of migrants. Italy, unlike Greece and Bulgaria, does not have a country like Turkey to send the unwanted migrants to. So here we are with a very bizarre coalition government in Italy. Unlike the fascistic movements, this government won the democratic elections and got to power perfectly legitimately.
Populism is back on the agenda. It will take a detailed and long debate and numerous surveys to really comprehend why populism is on the rise. Under the appellation of "populism" we have very different examples all over the world. "From the European far right in – among other countries – France, Austria and the Netherlands, and illiberal governments in Hungary and Poland, on the one hand, to Bernie Sanders, the so-called "pink tide' of left-wing populist governments in Latin America, and inclusionary populisms in the European South triggered by the brutal ordo liberal management of the European crisis, on the other," Yannis Stavrakakis wrote in Social Europe.
The developments in the EU will become unfortunately more and more dependent on realpolitik. In that sense, we have to be very careful managing our relations with governments in the EU in the coming weeks and months.