Berlusconi scandals leave Italian voters jaded

Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Protest movement at 27% in opinion polls as euroscepticism takes hold

Last week’s scandals involving the Milan Expo exhibition and the Forza Italia party of Silvio Berlusconi (above) run the risk of turning a solid abstentionist vote into a Eurosceptic or protest vote. Photograph: Daniel Dal Zennaro/EPA

Last week’s scandals involving the Milan Expo exhibition and the Forza Italia party of Silvio Berlusconi (above) run the risk of turning a solid abstentionist vote into a Eurosceptic or protest vote. Photograph: Daniel Dal Zennaro/EPA

Wed, May 14, 2014, 01:00

Just when Italy needed them least, along came another set of Mafia and corruption scandals to set up the Eurosceptics for a field day when Italy votes to elect its 73 MEPs.

Such is the effect of economic austerity and loss of faith in the political classes, commentators have been predicting a low turnout on May 25th.

However, last week’s scandals involving the Milan Expo exhibition and the Forza Italia party of Silvio Berlusconi run the risk of turning a solid abstentionist vote into a Eurosceptic or protest vote.

For the second time in little over a year, the most dynamic element in an Italian vote seems certain to be the Five Star Protest movement (M5S) of former comic Beppe Grillo.

Last year, the M5S did better than opinion polls had suggested and won 25 per cent of the vote to create a hung parliament. This time, with opinion polls putting it at 27 per cent, it could end up the second biggest party. The Eurosceptical Northern League seems likely to cross the 4 per cent quota threshold and the Italian Eurosceptic vote could be in the mid-30s.

Italy’s economic indicators are not good: 13 per cent unemployment, including 40 per cent in the 15-25 age group; a national debt of €2 trillion or more than 130 per cent of GDP and zero growth.In a country where 372,000 businesses were forced to close last year, many people blame “Europe” and the euro for their problems.

In an interview with Naples newspaper Il Mattino last week, the former mayor of Rome and Euro election candidate for the right-wing Fratelli d’Italia party Gianni Alemanno said Italy has to get out of the euro.

Test
The elections represent a sort of midterm test for the coalition government of Matteo Renzi, who took office last February thanks to a party coup rather than a nationwide vote.

The 46 million-strong electorate has 12 parties/lists to choose from but the real battle is between Mr Renzi’s Partito Democratico (PD), Mr Grillo’s M5S and Mr Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.

The opinion polls call it 33 per cent PD, 27 per cent M5S and 18 per cent Forza Italia at the moment.

 

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