Italy’s Turn to Try Populism
A good round-up on the 5-star Movement in Italy. The party is currently at the top of the polls with an election coming sometime in the next 12 months.
Fueled by discontent with slow growth, high unemployment and disillusionment with mainstream politicians, 5-Star has won local elections in Rome, Turin and elsewhere, partly on the strength of its leaders’ call for a referendum on Italy’s use of the European single currency.
Pollsters say about 30% of Italian voters support the movement founded by comedian Beppe Grillo, a level of popularity that has stood firm despite a series of high-profile stumbles, especially by its mayor in Rome. The self-described association of free citizens has replaced the center-left Democratic Party at the top of most polls ahead of national elections to be held by May 2018.
Europe can only dodge bullets for so long, and it only takes one victory to upend the apple cart. Once one nation acts in its self-interest, the pro-EU politicians who go along to get along will fall like dominoes. Nationalist sentiment is already high even in pro-euro and pro-EU countries.
Marketwatch: Draghi, Dutch lawmakers clash over ECB’s stimulus
Mr. Draghi’s rare visit to The Hague comes at a sensitive time for the ECB, which is considering when to start winding down its EUR60 billion-a-month bond-purchase program, known as quantitative easing. The program is currently due to run at least through December.
Tempers occasionally flared during a two-hour hearing in the Dutch parliament, as politicians probed Mr. Draghi on the ECB’s record of transparency, and attacked policies they said subsidized southern European countries and harmed Dutch pensioners.
“You still believe this [QE program] is fully within [the ECB’s] framework and you have not been doing any government financing, even though you [will have] bought EUR2.5 trillion of debt by the end of the year?” said Pieter Omtzigt, a member of the center-right Christian Democratic Appeal.
Mr. Draghi strongly defended the ECB’s decisions, which he said had helped support households throughout the region, including in the Netherlands. He also brushed off calls for a swift exit from QE.
“It is too early to declare success,” Mr. Draghi said. “Maintaining the current very substantial degree of monetary [stimulus] is still needed for underlying inflation pressures to build up.”
…Some Dutch lawmakers weren’t convinced. The ECB’s stimulus might have made Mr. Draghi a hero in southern Europe, said one MP, but not in Holland.
“It’s not my job to be a hero, just to pursue my mandate,” Mr. Draghi responded. The ECB, he said, has done no more than other major central banks in the U.S., U.K. and Japan, which also launched major stimulus programs in recent years.
…”You look remarkably calm for someone who issues EUR2.5 trillion out of thin air, especially when your chief economist says there is no Plan B,” commented Lammert van Raan, a member of the left-wing Party for the Animals.
States such as California and Texas have high hurdles on the road to independence. EU countries were sovereign nations less than a generation ago. The highest hurdle is a national election. The European project faces a bullet at almost every election, and if social mood deteriorates, the odds of nationalists winning goes up.