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Italy’s Election: A Lesson for Europe

Italy’s general elections have produced the results that the Western world feared so much in France’s elections last year—the triumph of nationalist populism.

No, liberal democracy and the market economy are not about to end, partly because the electoral system will not make it possible for the populists to govern outright and partly because many populists have closer connections to establishment parties and interests than to other populists. It will take weeks, perhaps months, of negotiations among several parties to form a government. But the lesson is that the failure of traditional politics to address Europe’s relative institutional and economic decadence continues to fuel the populist response to the status quo. The obvious risk is that eventually a major European country will find itself under an untamable government with enough power to implement a statist, nationalist, illiberal agenda.

The Five Star Movement, the bombastic force that has rocked Italian politics and stands for a confused mix of left- and right-wing populism, has become the largest single party, with one-third of the vote. A center-right coalition that includes former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and some strongly nationalist/xenophobic parties got 37 percent. But the Northern League, which had until now been under the moderating command of Forza Italia, defeated Berlusconi’s group by five points and will strongly influence what happens next. (Another like-minded member of the coalition obtained four-plus percent.) The votes of the Five Star Movement and the populist parties in Berlusconi’s coalition add up to 55 percent.

Alvaro Vargas Llosa is Senior Fellow at The Center on Global Prosperity at the Independent Institute. He is a native of Peru and received his B.Sc. in international history from the London School of Economics. His Independent Institute books include Global Crossings: Immigration, Civilization, and America, Lessons From the Poor: Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty, and Liberty for Latin America.

From Alvaro Vargas Llosa
GLOBAL CROSSINGS: Immigration, Civilization, and America
The erosion of national boundaries—and even the idea of the nation state—is already underway as people become ever more inter-connected across borders. A jungle of myth, falsehood and misrepresentation dominates the debate over immigration. The reality is that the economic contributions of immigration far outweigh the costs.