Italy’s Mr Populist

Catherine Fieschi charts the rise of the Lega’s Matteo Salvini

The World Today
Published 4 April 2019 Updated 8 February 2021 2 minute READ

Catherine Fieschi

Director, Counterpoint

There is an argument for saying that Italy is populism’s poster child. Not just because fascism contained a significant kernel of populism – the elite/people divide, the glorification of the people’s common sense and its virtuous moral attributes – but also because, right from the end of the war, Italy started growing its populist credentials. First, with the writer Guglielmo Giannini’s Front of the Common Man in 1944, which took issue with the role of parties in Italian democracy and ridiculed politicians. And then much more obviously from 1994 onwards when the vacuum left by the First Republic’s demise – and what a spectacular demise, all the main parties were wiped out – was filled by Silvio Berlusconi’s brand of politics, driven by money, mediocre television and football.

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