Source Newsroom: Cornell University
Enzo Traverso, professor of romance studies at Cornell University and formerly a professor of political science at the University of Picardie Jules Verne in Paris, comments on the deadlocked Italian presidential election.
“The Italian elections are both a turning point in peninsula politics and a significant new expression of the European crisis.
“The Parliament is divided into three main currents: a narrow center-left majority, a center-right and a new political force—the Five Stars Movement— that cannot be classified with in traditional political categories. Usually portrayed as ‘populist,’ this movement represents a widespread opposition to a corrupt political system as well as to the unpopular austerity policies put in place by the last government.
“An irrational electoral system creates a discrepancy between the two branches of the Parliament impeding any viable majority. Mario Monti, the candidate most respected by the markets, is marginalized. As a new, large, non-partisan coalition seems excluded, it’s difficult to imagine a future government.
“After the Greek crisis of last year, this new one shows the growing opposition of Southern European societies to anti-crisis therapies adopted by the ‘troika’ – the EU Commission, EU Central Bank and IMF.”
Mabel Berezin, professor of sociology at Cornell University focusing on political movements and author of “Illiberal Politics in Neoliberal Times: Cultures, Security, and Populism in a New Europe,” comments on the deadlocked Italian presidential election.
“The Italian election is another iteration of the political volatility that European austerity policies have generated across the continent. Falling stock prices and market turmoil represent short-term economic reactions to deeper institutional problems. The electoral salience of nationalist and populist parties has been the major political collateral damage emerging from European Union austerity policies.
“Italy will no doubt muddle through this election with some form of weak, cobbled together, center-left coalition. European markets will stabilize for a time, or until the next national election. The political players that have generated electoral volatility are united in their ‘Euroscepticism’—they want out of the euro and in some instances, European Union itself.
“Austerity is creating a political mood of anger and fear that evokes the 1920s and 30s in Europe. The European elections of the last six months, including the Italian, suggest that nationalists and populists do not need a strategy to win—they just need to show up. In the long run, that will present a greater challenge to European democracy than any short-term market fluctuations, as well as challenging American and European foreign relations.”
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