Does the Italexit party have a future?

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Yet another anti-EU party has joined the fold. In an increasingly Eurosceptic country like Italy, it should not be underestimated.

Last month, Gianluigi Paragone, a famous Italian television presenter and journalist, founded a new party called Italexit. It will be clear from the name that his intention in the future will be to follow in the footsteps of Nigel Farage, whose UK Independence Party (UKIP) led the charge in the run-up to the 2016 referendum by propelling the UK outside the European Union.

Paragone drew much inspiration from the man who, regardless of substantive considerations, is possibly one of the most successful politicians of the past decade. The two sat down for a comfortable chat two days before Paragone announced his new venture to the Italian Chamber of Deputies. When asked by a reporter if he sees himself as the Italian Farage, he confidently replied that whoever follows a gold medalist is bound to achieve something.

Paragon prides himself on being known as a Eurosceptic, and throughout his career as a journalist he has gone to great lengths to make this label stick. In 2005, he was editor-in-chief of Padania, the official newspaper of the then Northern League, a secessionist party that would later elect the cardinal point and become the largest opposition faction under the leadership of Matteo Salvini.

After two years he switched to the right-wing Milan newspaper Libero as assistant editor. In 2009 he started hosting a talk show for RAI, the Italian public broadcaster, and was eventually promoted to Deputy Director of RAI 1 – a move which was strongly protested by the then president. , Paolo Garimberti, for having departed from the tradition of house selection.

At this time, Paragon published his first book, the title of which translates to Invasion: How aliens conquer us and we surrender. Vulgar perhaps, but transparent to give us a foretaste of human politics.

After leading the talk shows Gabbia (2013-2017) and In onda (2015), he hitched his cart to the Five Star Movement (5SM) in 2017 during the campaign against the so-called Lorenzin Decree, which aimed to make vaccination compulsory for all Italian citizens.

A year later, he ran for a seat in Parliament with the 5SM in the 2018 general election and was elected to the Senate. Its position there was quickly compromised by its decision to vote against the second Conte government’s finance bill in December 2019, when the 5SM abandoned its main axis and decided to form a coalition with its nemesis, the Democratic Party. (PD). He said of the law that it “follows the logic of the balance sheet cage imposed by Brussels”.

The official manifesto of the Italexit The party embodies the left-wing Euroscepticism which has gained a lot of ground in the countries of southern Europe. He shares with parties like the left populist party Podemos in Spain and left and radical left coalition party Syriza in Greece, the representation of the European project as a neoliberal construction which imposes on companies the domination of globalized financial markets to the detriment of national monetary sovereignty. The austerity policy imposed by the European Commission is seen as the main enemy of economic recovery.

It also draws from right-wing movements more common to more productive northern European nations a sense that unregulated mass immigration to Europe has undermined social cohesion, increased crime levels and lowered the standard of living of indigenous workers. .

He breaks with this world view by claiming that a global free trade system has cut jobs and industry, weakened domestic demand and lowered the standards of goods circulating in the country. In this, it is particularly at odds with Faragian self-determination, which was born out of a large service economy which does not feel the pains of deindustrialisation as much as it traditionally takes root in the metallurgy, textile and manufacturing sectors. the automobile.

There are, however, a number of contradictions in his political statement. It seeks to eliminate the bureaucratic apparatus that traps small and medium-sized enterprises in endless waste of time and loss of productivity, but at the same time strives to expand the public sector to compensate for jobs that cannot be provided by the market – this in order to achieve “full employment”. It dreams of an industrial renaissance while subjecting industries to more rigid environmental regulations.

That Italy leaves the Union is not a new suggestion. The League and the Five Star Movement made this a major part of their platforms during the 2018 race, but they were quickly shaken by such a bold idea.

While discussing with the President of the Republic their choice of the Minister of the Economy for a coalition government, the eminent economist Paolo Savona encountered a cold veto because of his criticism of the euro area and for suggesting that Italy’s exit is one of only two ways the country can overcome its colossal public debt. The other way can only be full integration into a supranational state.

The mere suggestion that a Eurosceptic could take on such an important role made much of the pro-Brussels establishment tremble.

These two parties, however, have abandoned their plans to leave since they stepped into the corridors of power, to the disappointment of a significant part of their electorate, who sees the EU as a lost cause.

Italexit, by being a single party, can inspire more confidence in this disillusioned base and capitalize on its resentment. Today we can sketch how popular the Paragona party is and whether Italians in general want to leave the European club.

Paragone mentioned a poll during its announcement, carried out by the Piepoli Institute, which found that around 7% of Italians would vote to leave the bloc. This will undoubtedly be affected by the dire consequences of the coronavirus shutdown on the national economy, the Union’s initial perceived failure to support Italy and the related mistakes the government has made in its leave programs.

As reported by Al Jazeera, political analyst and polling expert Renato Mannheimer, when asked about the prospect of Italy’s withdrawal from the EU, said Italians’ feelings had “changed significantly in recent months. . […] even if we remain the country which trusts Brussels the least. He went on to say that the EU’s perceived initial failure to adequately respond to the Covid-19 crisis did not last very long in the face of the new deal on the € 750 billion stimulus package. “Most Italians don’t want to leave the EU. Only about 30 percent – rising to 40 percent at times – say yes initially. I do not believe that Paragone’s party can create a large enough audience for Italexit.

But the support that this party can acquire will be determined less by gestures of financial solidarity than by material conditions. The European Central Bank‘s emergency pandemic purchasing program is a necessary stimulus in times of crisis, but we should not expect it to finance heavily indebted countries indefinitely. The stimuli will end, and when they do, people might start to realize that maybe Christine Lagarde meant it when she said that the role of the ECB is not to control spreads.

Economic analyst Wolfgang Münchau wrote in the Financial Time in April, that “the main function of a stimulus fund will be to serve as an attention-seeking device for inactive European institutions, without any macroeconomic impact in an economy of 12 trillion euros”. Eventually, rating agencies and investors will begin to question Italy’s solvency. The problem is not only the high level of outstanding debt, but also the country’s stagnant growth rate.

This is the third recession in Italy since 2008, and each time the economy has emerged weaker and less able to service its debt. A scenario in which rating agencies recognize this and associate sequential credit downgrades accordingly may become likely.

At this point, the full depth of the recession will become apparent, and Italexit could gain popularity in the next general election in 2021 or 2022.

If that moment comes, he may be able to push for a referendum, but he will need the support of his anti-EU parties to push the bill through parliament. It is impossible to predict whether the League and the 5 Star Movement will then return to their true nature.

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