Populism and the Fall of the Centre-Right in Italy: The End of the Berlusconi Model or a New Beginning?

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Series Details Vol.21, No.1, March 2013, p38-52
Publication Date March 2013
ISSN 1478-2804
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This article examines the rise and fall of the Italian centre-right coalition, from its successful emergence in the mid-1990s in the wake of the collapse of the previous party-system to its demise with the resignation of Berlusconi in 2011. The downfall of the coalition is explained in terms of internal contradictions exacerbated by the adoption of a populist strategy which masked differences between the coalition partners and led to political and economic realities being ignored. Evocative populist incantations aroused expectations among voters which could never be met, not least because of the contradiction between Berlusconi's anti-elitist discourse and the pursuit of his own private interests. Whilst posing as a political outsider, Berlusconi had deep roots in Italy's political and economic establishment. The article points to the role of the financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath, and allegations about Berlusconi's private life in alienating previously supportive social actors, such as the northern entrepreneurial bourgeoisie and the Catholic Church. At the same time, the creation of the PDL (the People of Freedom) out of previously separate political parties made it more difficult for Berlusconi to manage tensions within the coalition and led to greater questioning of his leadership. The article examines the legacy of this anti-political approach which has enabled new populist movements to emerge and re-direct anti-political rhetoric against parties of the centre right themselves mired in corruption scandals after several years of political office. The populism of the new political movement led by Beppe Grillo and its impact on the Italian party system is assessed, with reference to the populist tradition in Italian political culture and the continuing appeal of charismatic leadership, and the broader context of the continuing Italian political transition.

Source Link https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/13501760210138778?needAccess=true
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