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The curious disappearance of populism from Italian politics

Mario Draghi, leaving this week the residence of the President of the Italian Republic. ShutterstockThe inauguration of Mario Draghi has brought about two Copernican changes in Italian politics. The Matteo Salvini League and the 5 Star Movement (M5S), with overwhelming enthusiasm, have opted to support the new executive. It is still curious to see how political forces, which throughout their history have exploited the anti-establishment message and Euroscepticism, now commune with the most pro-European elite possible. If, on the one hand, Salvini’s strategy responds to a logical maneuver, on the other, the 5-Star Movement takes another lurch in its brief political career. Just a couple of years ago both parties ruled side by side, with Giuseppe Conte at the helm of the executive. This curious governmental collaboration made national sovereignty its main flag. The clashes with Europe were numerous. Those of Grillo (Beppe Grillo is the founder of the 5 Star Movement) met with the French yellow vests, those of Salvini applauded Brexit. Both criticized the economic policy of the EU, hiding behind the idea that they represented the desire of the people and that the people had to be heard. Conte II: Agreement between the 5-Star Movement and the PD Once this ephemeral alliance was over, the League went to the opposition. The 5 Star Movement promoted a second government led by Giuseppe Conte. However, this time he sealed an agreement with the Democratic Party (PD). If the rapprochement between the 5-Star Movement and the League, however complicated it might be, maintained certain populist and anti-elitist touches as a link, the alliance with the PD surprised more than one. Among the voters from Gràcia (and, of course, the Democratic Party) and some of their own parliamentarians, there were those who did not understand this turn. The Democratic Party represented one of the main enemies for those who refused to support traditional politics. Whoever had decided to be a member of the 5-Star Movement ranks rather promoted a policy away from the elites entrenched in power. Boasting a supposedly higher democracy that we all enjoy, the leaders of the 5 Star Movement proposed to their constituents to express their opinion on the opportunity to negotiate with the Democratic Party. Around 80 thousand people voted. 73% of them gave their approval to this unique alliance. Draghi arrives and populism leaves. A year and a half later, the voters of the 5-Star Movement were once again asked to express their opinion on the political future of the country. This time, they were asked about their agreement to support a government formed by Mario Draghi. The leaders of the M5S did not hesitate to abandon “their man”, Giuseppe Conte, and lean towards the economist, former president of the European Central Bank. To stand out, and end up in the opposition along with the eternal enemy, the right-wing Brothers of Italy party, was not an acceptable option. In addition, that turn would have destroyed the coalition with the Democratic Party, whose representatives, as soon as Draghi’s name began to sound as a possible future prime minister, gave their approval without hesitation. The mantra of direct democracy, so proclaimed by Beppe Grillo and his family, ran the risk of turning against him. At that point, a rejection of Draghi could not be allowed, but it was not at all evident that the voters of Gràcia supported an openly European government, led by that elite that the M5S, from its birth, had promised to beat. After several hesitations, doubts, uncertainties, attempts not to link the popular election with the final decision of the party, the voters of the 5-Star Movement were submitted to the following question: “Do you agree that the Movement supports a technical government- politician that will include the super-Ministry for the Ecological Transition [propuesto por Beppe Grillo] and that it defend the main results obtained by the Movement, together with the other political forces proposed by the president in charge Mario Draghi? ”. Needless to say, the bias of that query. 59% of the 75,000 militants who voted (a figure that is not representative of the electoral base of the 5 Star Movement, which in the last elections obtained more than 10 million ballots) gave their approval to the new Government. However, on the day of the investiture of the new prime minister, part of the M5S deputies voted against it. In this way they perhaps reflected the original spirit of the party, but they contradicted the popular verdict. Salvini and the consequences of his support for Draghi At home there was also a turn towards that elite so denigrated until then. However, for the League the turn is not so traumatic. Part of its constituents are businessmen from northern Italy. They welcome Draghi’s arrival at Chigi Palace, residence of the prime minister in Italy. They hope their business aid policies can benefit them. On the other hand, according to the polls, Matteo Salvini has all the ballots to prevail in the next political elections. Presenting himself now as a “statesman”, who has put himself at the service of the country, redirecting his party towards moderate positions, could benefit him in the future. It is interesting to analyze how the transalpine political scene will evolve. For the moment, what Mario Draghi has managed to do is remove any hint of populism and euroscepticism from Italian politics at one stroke. This article was originally published in The Conversation. Read the original. Matteo Re does not receive a salary, nor does he carry out consulting work, nor does he own shares, nor does he receive funding from any company or organization that can benefit from this article, and has declared that he lacks relevant links beyond the academic position cited.

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