It looked so easy on paper. The two opposition parties in Italy surged to electoral success on the back of voter frustration with, well, everything. But, a funny thing happened on the way to political revolt in Italy, egos became more important than reform.
That’s the only way I can describe the actions of League Leader Matteo Salvini in the initial round of talks with fellow populist traveler Five Star Movement (M5S). Salvini refuses to break his coalition with Forza Italia and its leader Silvio Berlusconi.
And, of course, Berlusconi being the stalking horse for the European Union that he is, refuses to enter into a coalition with Five Star virtue signaling his painted hair off saying, “We are not open to government solutions in which envy and social hate, poverty politics and judicial witch hunts are the cornerstone.”
That First Sip is a Doozy
It is fairly obvious that Salvini is a little drunk on the power of his newfound status of coalition leader. He’s trying to milk it for whatever he can get from it. And that’s the real danger.
Salvini believes a re-vote is in The League’s favor. But, I wouldn’t be so sure of that.
In response to talks breaking down, M5S Leader Luigi Di Maio made coalition overtures to the Democrats who promptly rejected him. And that’s expected. The establishment parties are beholden to Brussels in the end. It is their job to deliver a result that aligns with further EU integration.
And M5S is certainly not that.
Dragging out coalition talks is part of the strategy of proving that ‘the new guys’ are unfit to rule.
So, Di Maio is getting a little lesson early on here of just whose loyalties lie where and how serious the establishment is at protecting its position.
This is why Salvini is pressing his advantage here. He knows he can’t enter a coalition with M5S and be the senior partner and that’s what he wants. The only path to that is another vote.
But, Italian President Mastrella isn’t going to allow that yet. And the longer this goes on without a resolution, the worse it will get for everyone. The people of Italy are ticked off. And Salvini may be fooling himself if he thinks The League can go from 17% to 35% in a year when it is precisely his own ego that is keeping a government from forming.
To do that The League would have to pull support from the Democrats and cannibalize his own coalition. Meanwhile, the EU and the caretaker government do nothing to solve the problems pressing on the Italian people, raising their frustration further.
It’ll be easy for Berlusconi and the Democrats to point the finger at Salvini and away from themselves.
The more likely scenario is that the south, which pushed M5S over the 30% mark, will harden even further for them while M5S makes in-roads farther north and pushes its totals towards 40%. At which point the it has far more potential dance partners.
Moreover, it can continue to offer up coalition talks with everyone and campaign on the points that it is trying to be the leader the people voted for. It’s not their fault there is no government formed.
And that’s why Salvini has a very tight window to negotiate with M5S and he has to be smarter than he’s been going forward.
Protests are Not Endorsements
Because, the truth is that Italians voted for the outsiders in protest. But, that also means that support can crumble quickly if the leadership doesn’t actually lead. Voting in those with no experience is a leap of faith that electorates rarely take.
It speaks to the seriousness of the situation in Italy, how close it is to something far uglier than an inconvenient election result.
Salvini needs to read the tea leaves better, cut a deal with Di Maio and prove that both are capable of leading a government through a very difficult period. Get the experience and you gain that alongside something far more important, the people’s trust.
The time for egos comes after you’ve done the work.
And then you can call for snap elections to further consolidate power. Salvini should spend some time watching Shinzo Abe in Japan versus staring at his reflection in a mirror.
Political protests are not a positive statement. They are negative ones.
Salvini must realize this as he has not earned the people’s patience yet. That comes with accomplishing their desires, not playing power politics and remaining loyal to the very people they rejected.
We had a political revolt here in the U.S. with electing Trump. The strategy of his opposition was to deny him any wins, no matter how trivial. By doing that, they figured, they could wear down the people’s frustration with the status quo and prove to them once and for all that this awful state of being is the best they can hope for.
It’s all part of the psy-op.
And, despite Trump’s mis-steps and that insane level of opposition he’s confronted, he has acquitted himself well enough through his first year-plus in office. His poll numbers are rising and his base has been forgiving, because they rightly see how unfairly he’s been treated.
He’s established himself as someone who can govern, albeit in his own distinct style.
Salvini and Di Maio are in that same position Trump was in. If M5S and The League formed a coalition tomorrow it would harden their opposition. They can expect the same unfair treatment Trump has endured.
And guess what? The people will rally around their champions. If you are going to be a populist. Be a populist. Do the people’s work and check your ego at the door.
If a man a flawed and narcissistic as Donald Trump can do it, anyone can.
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