There is no shortage of studies and contributions that help shed light on the terms “sovereignism” and “populism”, which have long marked the political vocabulary in Italy and Europe. These two cultural-political trends (which, according to various sources, intertwine and complement each other) draw strength from the fears fuelled in the last 20/25 years with the emergence of globalisation, together with the repercussions of the severe economic recession that hit Europe in 2008, migratory flows and terrorism. The extensive dissemination – and the unscrupulous use – of social media completes the picture, endlessly amplifying real or irrational fears, political inaccuracies, veritable fake news, hollow slogans, hate speech, social selfishness, national or local closures.
Sovereignisms (or, more appropriately, “nationalisms”) and populism of various kinds and symbols have thus taken root in European political processes, extending across all countries of the continent, albeit with different electoral “weight.”
The United Kingdom is confronted with Brexit – and its evident consequences -, generally referred to as an emblematic populist success. Since the 2016 referendum the country has been in a state of distress, politics is collapsing day by day to the lowest levels in the history of the country that created parliamentary democracy. British society is torn apart, politics is paralysed, the nation divided (with growing distance separating the English, Scots, Welsh and Irish). Families are breaking up internally: the resignation as minister of Jo Johnson, brother of Prime Minister Boris, speaks volumes…
Italy, hitherto referred to, rightly or wrongly, as the top populist nation in Europe (it was compared to Orban’s Hungary), cannot fail to reflect on the extent to which Italian politics have changed – few say for the better – from the 1990s to the present day. Likewise, France and Germany (one need only look at the results of the recent vote in Saxony and Brandenburg) assess the albeit limited successes of parties indicated as nationalist or populist, with their respective “cases” of Rassemblement national and Alternative für Deutschland.
The upcoming elections in Poland on 13 October, and the prospect of Spain’s return to the polls (elections will take place next fall if Socialist PM Sanchez fails to create a new executive by 23 September), will provide new evidence for so-called populist parties: Law and Justice (PIS) currently in power in Warsaw, and Vox, representing the far right in the Iberian Peninsula.
Elections, and history’s subsequent evaluation, will determine whether or not the phenomena branded as populist and/or sovereignist – diffused in all Western countries, including the United States and Russia – are transitory. Indeed, it should be acknowledged that the so-called liberal democracies are being severely impacted, requiring revisions and innovations in areas where
the political “palaces” had become inaccessible fortresses that turned a deaf ear to citizens’ expectations, unable to deliver the results that ordinary people expect from the political realm.
Possible responses and desirable reversals of trends – caused by populisms – could emerge from a serious policy reform that requires, inter alia, first of all the respect for substantial democracy and its constitutional rules; secondly, restoring a central role to institutional processes (online vote on the Rousseau platform is a clear denial of this); thirdly, re-launching party politics – linking citizens and institutions – as enshrined in Article 49 of the Italian Constitution; fourth point, a “palace” that listens to citizens and social bodies, to guide the country in accordance with the deeper needs expressed by the “sovereign people”; fifth, the ability to define a plan of reforms and measures in support of each Country’s renewal in keeping with the current developments; sixth, the patient creation of a ruling class commensurate with the challenges each nation is confronted with. The seventh ingredient is
a cautious use of communications tools, notably regarding the use of social media by political leaders (be they mayors, municipal or regional councillors, MPs, ministers…).
Eighth: the definition of a foreign policy aimed at creating a peaceful international community, open to mutual collaboration, ready to support the poorest countries so that they too may experience peace and development and offer a dignified life to their peoples (also in terms of prevention of forced migrations).
A renewed political involvement of citizenry, based on information and on the creation of a true democratic conscience directed at the development of the common good, which is much more than the sum of personal or particular interests present in each country – Italy included – must likewise constitute a priority and a central feature.