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Brookings: Italy's Hazardous New Experiment – Genetically Modified Populism

• by Carlo Bastasin

Finally, three months after its elections, Italy has produced a new creature in the political biosphere: a "populist but technocratic" government. What we will be watching is not really the result of a Frankenstein experiment, rather something closer to a genetically modified organism. Such a pairing is probably something unheard of in history: Into a populist coalition was inserted some technocratic elements in the most critical ministries. The rationale might be less abstruse than it seems: You can make the nationalist at home, but only if you keep your populist fingers away from interdependent policies

The two anti-establishment parties that form the coalition, the Five Star Movement (FSM) and the League, will grant a parliamentary majority, though not a large one, to the new government. They will also pretend, through their rhetoric, that their government will be close to the ordinary people. This slogan may resound and even create a sense of community in a disoriented electorate, growing disenchanted with democracy.

However, during the final negotiations, the president of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, managed to insert a number of external and technically competent figures in the list of ministers. The all-important Finance Ministry will be led by an economist, Giovanni Tria, who has no known familiarity with either FSM and League, although he had some proximity with past center-right governments. The foreign minister, Enzo Moavero, was a member of the non-partisan and pro-European Monti Cabinet, between 2011 and 2013. Other ministers have no political affiliation.

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