Europe (and immigration) among the new Eurosceptics in the 2018 Italian elections

Posted by ap507 at Feb 21, 2018 12:42 PM |
Populist ‘elites vs the people’ narratives are playing upon rising Euroscepticism and concerns about immigration, argues Dr Simona Guerra from our School of History, Politics and International Relations

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Recent comment pieces and public opinion data address the increasing dissatisfaction with the European Union (EU) among Italian citizens. Although Italy has always been presented and is well known as one of the most Euro-enthusiast countries, levels of public Euroscepticism have started to increase since the first wave of the economic crisis. This contribution examines the rise of public Euroscepticism and addresses the most salient issues among Italian voters, how these are being addressed by some political parties and to what extent they can also explain current attitudes both towards the domestic situation and the EU.

In an analysis on the European Parliament (EP) elections Fabio Serricchio observes that, in Italy, enthusiasm towards the EU has been smoothly declining. Although participation at the European Parliament (EP) elections is still high (65 per cent) compared to the EU average turnout is high only within a synchronic perspective, whilst a comparison to the first EP elections in 1979 shows a drop in turnout of about 20 per cent. This overlaps with more political and social domestic controversial debates, and the emergence of soft Euroscepticism at the elite level, where extreme positions have been taken to support withdrawal from the Eurozone and hard opposition towards the main policy pillars of the EU.

Domestic contestation has increased the salience of Europe, with political actors pointing to the ‘total failure’ of the EU. Withdrawal from the EU is not an option being put forward by any official political party in Italy, and the Movimento 5 stelle (Five Star Movement – M5s) candidate Prime Minister, Luigi Di Maio stresses that leaving the EU would be just a ‘last resort’. The party stance reveals a new form of opposition that is becoming more widespread across Europe, not just among civil society, and has been defined by John FitzGibbon as ‘Euroalternativism’. This represents a pro-systemic (critical) opposition to Europe that would suggest alternative policies and institutional reforms, while still supporting EU membership. In the case of the M5s, currently forecast to receive the most votes on March 4th, it generally refers to the social costs of the Eurozone and the much salient issue of immigration from North Africa. Luigi Di Maio’s campaign has identified, similarly to Matteo Salvini, leader of the Lega, that the most salient issues across the electorate are immigration, disengagement with politics and Euroalternativism...

This article is the third in a new SPERI Comment series with the PSA Italian Politics Specialist Group on the 2018 Italian election. Read all of the articles in the series so far here.

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