A dangerous new phase in Italy’s populist drama is beginning, with the nationalist League set on devouring its coalition partner
We are witnessing the beginning of act two in the drama of Italian populism, and it is a showdown between the protagonists who made phase one happen. Since the election of 2018, Matteo Salvini’s League has grown stronger, and it has had enough of its coalition partner, the Five Star Movement. It now feels it can claim sole leadership of the country, with Salvini as prime minister.
It’s a development that Steve Bannon, the theoretician of the US populist wave that elected Trump in 2016, foresaw. The day after the coalition was formed, Bannon said of Salvini and the Five Star leader, Luigi Di Maio: “They will govern together, but Salvini is the real leader, because Di Maio resembles [Emmanuel] Macron.” This was always a tactical alliance, because in the end populism is based on there being only one leader.