Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Italian Connection

Italy is not often grouped among Europe's Great Powers. But with 73 seats in the EP--the same as the UK, just one less than France--Italy does weigh in fairly heavily in that forum. For that reason it was no surprise to see Alexis Tsipras in Rome yesterday, fresh from his triumphant march to the Bastille on Saturday, collecting his endorsement from the SEL (Left Ecology Freedom) Party and its luminaries, Barbara Spinelli and Nichi Vendola. On the other hand, current polls suggest that SEL and its Left allies won't make it over the bar to win any  seats in the new EP.

But that's not the crux of the story in Italy, where the third largest bloc (18 seats, according to the same polls) may belong to Beppe Grillo's Movimento Cinque Stelle. Since that party has never appeared in the EP, no one quite knows how they will affiliate. Marine Le Pen was in Italy after her party's blow-out in the Municipals, but her Italian compagni della strada--the Northern League and the Fratelli Italiani, both suspiciously neo-fascist, in the literal sense--are completely unpalatable to Grillo and his grillini, who for the most part have left-libertarian tendencies. Joining the conventional parties of the center makes even less sense  for this anti-establishment crowd.

So will they join Tsipras and the GUE? Domestically they spurned Vendola's overtures when it seemed possible to form a Left coalition government with Democrats, Sel and the MCS. But that was then, and part of a domestic realignment. On the European front Grillo's legions might find themselves most at home on the left aisle, and that would increase the weight of Tsipras and the Other Europe cause by quite a lot. Vedremmo.


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