Italian Election Delivers Stalemate as Italy Flirts with Fascism

Sophia Lauer, Contributor

In their latest election for parliament and Prime Minister, Italy reached a stalemate between two far-right candidates, Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini.

The main contenders of last Sunday’s election: 31-year-old Luigi Di Maio of the Five Star Movement, and Matteo Salvini of the extreme center-right alliance, with Democratic candidate Matteo Renzi decisively pushed out of the alt-right debate. The center-right alliance includes the Forza Italia party, Lega, and the fairly unpopular radical party Fratelli d’Italia.

While the Five Star Movement won 32% of the vote (13% more than their closest contender, the Democratic Party), its Prime Minister candidate Luigi Di Maio is being contested by Matteo Salvini of the Lega party, who attempts to represent the whole centre-right political coalition. The result is a struggle between two right-wing, anti-establishment groups, reports NBC.

If Salvini wins the seat as Prime Minister, experts project Italy will likely fall back into the fascism they recognized under Benito Mussolini during World War II. The Guardian reports that, despite their historically secessionist sentiments, Salvini’s Lega party has become increasingly nationalist in recent years, adopting far-right views under Salvini’s leadership.

Salvini himself has been criticized as sexist, racist, and xenophobic, having made disrespectful sexual comments towards the female speaker of the house in Italy’s Parliament, and associated immigrants with drugs and violence. And, although not initiated by Slavini, there was a drive-by shooting in a crowd of immigrants committed in his name last month. “There is a need for a mass cleaning, even in Italy,” said Salvini on Italian national television station ANSA, regarding his anti-immigrant sentiments, “from one street to the next, from one neighborhood to the next, town square to town square, with strong methods if necessary.”

On the other hand, Luigi Di Maio’s populist Five Star Movement also lands in the anti-establishment group of Italian parties, driving a hard line against immigration. The Five Star Movement, started in 2008 by comedian Beppe Grillo when he was sick of the corrupt establishment, now has Di Maio as the youngest party leader in Italian history. Di Maio has remained fairly ambiguous on his policies, taking an anti-immigrant stance, supporting cuts and rollbacks on vaccination requirements for children, but otherwise remaining mysterious.

Di Maio’s Five Star Movement is now shifting towards forming a multi-partisan anti-EU coalition, according to NBC, meaning Salvini and Di Maio could potentially join forces to govern an isolationist Italy in the near future.

The most controversial factor of this election might just be the strong presence of four-time prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Banned from running for public office for six years back in 2013 due to allegations of extreme sexism and soliciting underage prostitutes, Berlusconi is now running a campaign to regain some influence. His hope is to act as a kingmaker in this election, having given his influence to the Salvini campaign after the stalemate was called.