Populist parties are on the rise in Europe, with recent polls showing Italy’s insurgent Eurosceptic Five Star Movement (M5S) a full 5.5 points ahead of the ruling Democratic Party (PD).
The Five Star Movement, which is pushing for a referendum of Italy’s membership of the euro, was founded by comedian and blogger Beppe Grillo. The party has risen in popularity following divisions in the center-right and a devastating split in the PD.
According to British think tank Eurointelligence, “Political parties that preoccupy themselves with their internal divisions are electorally doomed. We are now at the point where it becomes increasingly improbable for the PD to regain power after the next elections.”
The PD, its new breakaway faction MDP, and a small center-right group polling at less than 3% are the only pro-EU parties in Italy.
The rightwing populist and anti-immigration Northern League party, which just signed a cooperation agreement with Russia’s ruling United Russia party, came in second place with 12.8% of the vote.
The agreement is designed to bring about discussion, through which “our parties can show other political forces an example of how to take responsibility for the implementation of international cooperation,” said United Russia’s deputy leader Sergei Zheleznyak. United Russia signed a similar agreement with the far-right Austrian People’s Party (FPO).
Some worry that Russia’s interest in European politics is a play to encourage EU disintegration. Such disintegration is likely if parties like France’s National Front or Italy’s Five Star Movement come into power.
This Tuesday, a group of lawmakers within the European Parliament proposed withholding funds from all Eurosceptic parties.
“The question is whether Europe is so stupid to fund its enemies,” said Manfred Weber, head of the European legislature’s conservative grouping.
“This little outburst shows how desperate Europhiles really are,” shot back UKIP leader Paul Nuttall. “There is no such thing as EU money. It’s taxpayers’ money and Eurosceptic parties have a mandate from their voters who pay tax.”
The proposal is unlikely to pass, as it would have to be approved by the European Parliament and by EU nations.
The Five Star Movement insists that it will not form coalitions with other parties, which could make it difficult for them to form a government.
“The movement is said to be picking potential ministers from its MPs, with Luigi Di Maio, 30, tipped as their candidate for prime minister,” reports Breitbart.
Italy’s next general election will be held no later than May 23rd, 2018; it could be held as early as this autumn.