Happy Germans Vote for the Center, Other Europeans Drawn to Extremes

A sunny day in Frankfurt, Germany, January 17, 2011
A sunny day in Frankfurt, Germany, January 17, 2011 (Flickr/Aeror)

Germans are more centrist and optimistic than most Europeans. The French and the Spanish have yet to feel the economic recovery and are more inclined to vote for parties on the far left and the far right. The Italians are even more pessimistic, yet they remain wary of extremes.

Those are among the findings of a Europe-wide survey conducted by the German Bertelsmann Stiftung.

Here are the figures: Read more

Berlusconi Comeback in Italy Looks Like a Long Shot

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi adjusts his tie during a conference in Malta, March 30
Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi adjusts his tie during a conference in Malta, March 30 (EPP)

Silvio Berlusconi is eying a comeback in Italy — again.

The eighty-year old former media tycoon, who was prime minister four times between 1994 and 2011, still leads Forza Italia, the country’s largest conservative opposition party.

But it is only polling around 14 percent support. So many things need to happen to put Il Cavaliere back in power that it looks like a long shot:

  • The European Court of Human Rights needs to overturn Berlusconi’s ban from public office. Elections must be held before May 2018, but Berlusconi can’t run again until 2019 due to a conviction for tax fraud. He is appealing the verdict.
  • The ruling center-left Democratic Party and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which are polling in first and second place, respectively, need to lose popularity.
  • So does the formerly separatist Northern League, which Matteo Salvini is transforming into a national right-wing populist force that is anti-euro and anti-immigration.
  • A new electoral law must have a high-enough threshold to prevent Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano’s center-right Popular Alternative from eating into Berlusconi’s margins — but not so high as to prevent the nationalist Brothers of Italy from winning seats. Berlusconi would need them for a majority. Read more

Italy’s Renzi Calls for German-Style Voting System

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi and German chancellor Angela Merkel address a joint news conference in Berlin, March 25, 2014
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi and German chancellor Angela Merkel address a joint news conference in Berlin, March 25, 2014 (Bundesregierung)

Italy’s Democratic Party leader, Matteo Renzi, has called for a German-style voting system in his country that could pave the way for a left-right coalition government.

Italy must have voting reform before elections can be held this year or next. Read more

After Winning Back Party Control, Renzi Faces Two Challenges

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi delivers a news conference in Rome, January 13, 2016
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi delivers a news conference in Rome, January 13, 2016 (Palazzo Chigi)

Italy’s Matteo Renzi has won a convincing mandate for his center-left agenda, winning over 70 percent support in the Democratic Party’s leadership contest.

The former premier, who stepped down in December after losing a referendum on constitutional reform, is believed to be plotting a comeback.

After prevailing in this weekend’s primary, he can comfortably brush off criticism that he governed too much from the center. Read more

Left-Wing Purists Split in Italy, Raise Risk of Five Star Victory

Italian lawmaker Roberto Speranza checks his phone during an event in Bologna, March 14, 2015
Italian lawmaker Roberto Speranza checks his phone during an event in Bologna, March 14, 2015 (Francesco Pierantoni)

Left-wing rebels quit Italy’s Democratic Party this weekend to start a new party with remnants of the old left, called the Democrats and Progressives.

The group consists of leftwingers who are dissatisfied with the centrist leadership of Matteo Renzi, but they could end paving the way for an even less social democratic Italy. Read more

Purists Hurt Left’s Chances in France, Could Do Same in Italy

Enrico Rossi, the president of Tuscany, addresses a plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions in Brussels, June 15, 2016
Enrico Rossi, the president of Tuscany, addresses a plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions in Brussels, June 15, 2016 (EU/Tim De Backer)

It doesn’t look like the two left-wing contenders for the French presidency will be able to make a pact.

I wrote here a few days ago that Benoît Hamon, the mainstream Socialist Party candidate, and the far left’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon could have bested the French center. A left-wing unity ticket would have qualified for the second voting round in May, according to recent polls. Marine Le Pen of the National Front is expected to qualify as well. Forced to choose between a leftist and a nativist, a majority of the French would presumably opted for the former.

But neither Hamon nor Mélenchon is willing to play second fiddle, as a result of which the left won’t stand a chance. Read more

Renzi Picks Side in Italy’s Blue-Red Culture War

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi answers a reporter's question in Mexico City, Mexico, April 20, 2016
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi answers a reporter’s question in Mexico City, Mexico, April 20, 2016 (Palazzo Chigi)

Italy’s Democratic Party leader, Matteo Renzi, launched his candidacy for reelection this week by presenting himself as the alternative to nationalist leaders in his own country as well as America and France.

“Some people wanted a party congress to find an alternative to Renzi-ism. It needs to be done as an alternative to Trumpism, Le Penism and even Grilloism,” the former prime minister said, referring to the new president of the United States, the leader of France’s National Front and the founder of Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement. Read more