Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The EU trumps democracy in Italy

Back in March Italians went to the polls to elect a new government, and delivered an indecisive result with no clear winner. After months of wrangling and failed talks, it looked like an alliance of the populist Five Star Movement and the racist League would finally be able to form a government. But it was effectively vetoed at the last minute by Italy's President, when he refused to appoint someone who had voiced doubts about the EU as finance minister.

No matter which way you look at it, this is grossly undemocratic. The two parties ran on an anti-EU platform. They won a majority, both of the popular vote and in parliament. No matter what you think of their policies, this gives them an unquestioned right to form a government of their choosing. That right has clearly been violated. Worse, by doing this, the president has sent a clear message that he believes that the European Union trumps democracy and that he is just a local satrap for Brussels (a message strengthened by the support he is receiving from major EU governments). You don't need to support or like M5S or the League to think that that is an extremely dubious position.

The president has now appointed an interim prime minister - a former IMF budget-slasher, no less - who has no support and will fall at the first confidence vote. New elections are inevitable. And the president has just ensured that they will be fought on the question of Italy's membership of the EU and the EU's toxic effect on the democracy of its member states (not to mention constitutional reform to prevent the president from ever pulling a stunt like this again). If he was trying to protect Italy's place in the EU, he couldn't have picked a worse way to go about it.