Guess who comes last?

by Henry on April 21, 2008

I’ve been remiss in not posting anything about the results of the Italian election – the result of a number of deadlines crashing in on me at once. But in lieu of proper analysis, it’s worth noting that the biggest winner in the elections – the Lega Nord – is one of the most genuinely revolting political parties in the Western world. The picture below (nicked from Foreign Policy’s Passport blog) gives some idea of what their winning electoral strategy involved.

According to Passport, it appears that Lega leading light Roberto Calderoli is likely to become deputy Prime Minister. Regular CT readers may recall his resignation from a previous government after wearing a t-shirt with one of the Danish anti-Muslim cartoons; he has distinguished himself in the meantime with his dismissal of the French football team as “negroes, communists and Muslims” after Italy beat them in the infamous Zidane-headbutt game and by threatening to have a pig ‘defile’ a site in Bologna where a mosque was to be built. US readers who aren’t familiar with European politics should try to imagine a political party with a program co-written by Mark Steyn, David Duke and Tom Tancredo, and they’ll be at least half-way there.

{ 26 comments }

1

Bob B 04.21.08 at 6:41 pm

For slightly different perspectives on the Northern League in Italy, try this:

“The League’s campaign focused on what it sees as the waste, inefficiency and corruption of the political class in Rome. . . It argued that Italy’s prosperous north should stop subsidising its underdeveloped south.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7350691.stm

No wonder the League is unpopular in some quarters but for all that: “The Northern League won nine per cent of the vote, leaving [Umberto Bossi, the NL Party leader,] as the kingmaker in parliament. Silvio Berlusconi knows he cannot govern without Bossi’s support, although the two men have never got on. Bossi is one of the few men in Italy with little respect for the orange-skinned billionaire. He has taunted him in public as Berlus-kaiser and Berlusconi Mafioso.”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2008/04/16/do1605.xml

2

Adam 04.21.08 at 7:20 pm

It certainly doesn’t say anything good when a party which was originally formed for the purpose of having the North succeed from Italy is growing in popularity.

While I would like to hope that the animosity between Berlusconi and Bossi leads to an early collapse of this government, I don’t see how there would be any change in sentiment between now and then to push parties like this one out of the picture.

3

P O'Neill 04.21.08 at 7:36 pm

There seem to be indications that the one thing that the Northern League and Silvio will be able to agree on quite quickly is not the stylized bashing of non-European immigrants but rather a general hostility to EU-level initiatives and institutions (especially the ECB) and also a hostility to immigrants from the EU, notably Romania (which I suppose is the target 2nd from the right in the poster). So the rhetoric might be Steyn/Duke/Tancredo-esque but the parallel with the Brussels-bashing is not so obvious, given its extreme anti-Federalist nature.

4

notsneaky 04.21.08 at 8:33 pm

“party which was originally formed for the purpose of having the North succeed from Italy”

Ok, ok, it shall be the Emperor and not the Pope who shall have the right of Investiture.

And yeah that poster is pretty despicable. Does it really matter if “a slightly different perspective” is out there?

5

DC 04.21.08 at 10:59 pm

Read the other day that Italy’s national debt service costs about 4.5% of GDP per year – pretty remarkable. No wonder there’s such a niche for racists and populists if you’re spending 4.5% of GDP on debt service before you even get started on doling out pork!

6

voyou 04.21.08 at 11:03 pm

That Telegraph article is spectacularly bad. “Bossi is one of the few men in Italy with little respect for the orange-skinned billionaire”? Yeah, one of the “few men” except for, like, everyone in Italy who isn’t a Forza Italia voter (and probably a lot of those who are). And it mentions LN’s 1994-96 participation in a coalition with Forza Italia, but not the fact that they’ve since been part of a bloc with Forza Italia and others since 2000.

7

Down and Out of Sài Gòn 04.21.08 at 11:40 pm

So the third stereotype along – that would be Romani?

8

Adam 04.22.08 at 12:29 am

Yeah, the third stereotype is Romani.

Though this image doesn’t show it, Lega Nord doesn’t only aim its racist ire at Africans, Asians, Arabs, and Romani, they also use their racial rhetoric against all Italians who have there origin south of the Po river valley (roughly… Lega supporters who live further south always imagine the magical line to be just south of where they live).

There is still a lot of anger from Northern Italians against Southern Italians because of the mass migrations after WW2 and the financial support from the government trying to bring the south to the same prosperity level of the north.

9

sbk 04.22.08 at 12:30 am

Grotesque. I’m very sorry to see this.

10

Marshall 04.22.08 at 12:37 am

US readers who aren’t familiar with European politics should try to imagine a political party with a program co-written by Mark Steyn, David Duke and Tom Tancredo, and they’ll be at least half-way there.

That sounds like the Republican party. Oh, except it’s missing the billionaire contingent. I guess that’s why they joined up with Berlusconi.

11

will u. 04.22.08 at 1:01 am

This poster is featured in the Lega Nord wikipedia article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lega_Nord

‘A political poster of the League for regional elections in Piedmont, 2005. It reads “Guess who is last in line for housing, employment and health care?”, and pictures (from right) a Chinese, Roma, African, and Arab person all in front of a Piedmonteses in a social services queue.’

I know I ought tut-tut this poster, especially given LN’s recent electoral success, but it’s so transparently and stupidly racist I can’t really take it seriously. Nor Umberto Bossi, for that matter, between his sartorial choices and his resemblance to William T. Vollman:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image%3AUmberto_Bossi.jpg

12

jlw 04.22.08 at 1:02 am

An Italian engineer at Akosombo Dam in Ghana once assured me that Africa began just north of Rome. One assumes he is now a Northern League voter–if someone hasn’t stuck a shiv in him yet.

13

will u. 04.22.08 at 1:04 am

In fact, the entire Italian political system is so farcical and sclerotic I can’t muster any outrage over anything. For instance, you have Alessandra Mussolini’s exchange with the transgender Rifondazione MP Vladimir Luxuria:

14

emily 04.22.08 at 1:15 am

that’s not the only scary/baffling poster lega nord has:
http://www.nixonthehand.com/?p=532

15

rea 04.22.08 at 1:16 am

Alessandra Mussolini

It’s astonishing that a granddaughter of Mussolini, openly endorsing her grandfather’s policies, could be a major Italian politician in this day and age. She rather looks like him, too, in a strange way . . .

16

Bob B 04.22.08 at 6:28 am

An illuminating assessment in Spiegel (a German periodical) of the outcome of the Italian general election:

” . . Il Cavaliere — as Berlusconi is known — has never managed to shake off the stigma among his European counterparts of being a leader who is not to be taken seriously. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was the only one who really bothered with Berlusconi: Blair visited Berlusconi in Sardinia and the two leaders were united in supporting the Iraq war.”
http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,548749,00.html

But then Tony Blair, like Mussolini, was committed to the third way.

Martin Clark is an academic historian. In his book on: Modern Italy 1871-1995 (Longman 2nd ed, 1996), p.250, where he writes about the policies of Mussolini’s fascist government: “They seemed to offer ‘a third way’, between capitalism and Bolshevism, which looked attractive in the Depression. …”

17

jay bee 04.22.08 at 7:35 am

The South starts at Mestre (per Aurelio Zen -Michael Dibdin RIP alas alas)

18

notsneaky 04.22.08 at 8:51 am

“Guess who is last in line for housing, employment and health care?”

Note also the populist left wing message. Government is giving out stuff! It just isn’t giving out stuff to you! But it should! Very much the heirs of Mussolini.

19

Dave 04.22.08 at 9:02 am

@11: since much of the electorate in every ‘western’ society is both stupid and racist, in what sense is this poster not good politics, for the LN, pragmatically?

20

Robin Green 04.22.08 at 10:32 am

If much of the electorate is so stupid and racist, then why do the BNP (and UKIP) do so poorly in the UK?

21

Dave 04.22.08 at 12:06 pm

@19: stupid and racist, but not necessarily inclined to vote for a bunch of football-hooligans or feuding saloon-bar poujadistes. Nonetheless, playing a racist card, subtly if possible, occasionally not, has never noticeably hurt any political party’s standing amongst the ‘great British public’. If it had, presumably Gordon Brown would not have uttered the immortal line ‘British jobs for British people’ not so very long ago.

As for stupid, making a general observation, very many people are not clever; some of them are quite stupid, some stupid people are very stupid: but they all get a vote. Or is stupidity to be rendered now as merely ‘differently intelligent’? Note that I make no distinctions of class, nor do I associate intelligence with any particular set of exams or tests, or other specific attainments that might conceal sampling biases. Nevertheless, if very many people were not, in a surprisingly large variety of ways, really quite stupid, public life would not be quite the steaming pile of foetid excrement that it is today. It could be worse, no doubt, but it could be so much better.

22

Bob B 04.22.08 at 1:00 pm

What we really need to worry about in Britain is not the numbers of citizens voting for the BNP or UKIP, but the numbers who are not now voting at all.

In the 2005 general election, the turnout was the second lowest since 1918 – the turnout at the 2001 election having been the lowest since 1918.

In the 2005 election, more didn’t vote than the number who voted for New Labour candidates. Blair could hardly claim an overwhelming mandate despite the historic achievement of a Labour government being re-elected for a third term. In fact, between the 1997 and 2005 elections, Blair lost 4 million votes and half the membership of the Labour Party.

23

ajay 04.22.08 at 1:44 pm

Nonetheless, playing a racist card, subtly if possible, occasionally not, has never noticeably hurt any political party’s standing amongst the ‘great British public’.

Er… didn’t do much for Enoch Powell’s career, IIRC.

24

john b 04.22.08 at 2:07 pm

Nonetheless, playing a racist card, subtly if possible, occasionally not, has never noticeably hurt any political party’s standing amongst the ‘great British public’.

Tory campaign 2005?

25

ajay 04.22.08 at 3:11 pm

25: ah, yes, the first time in modern history that a political party used a quote from “Pinky and the Brain” as a campaign slogan. (Are You Thinking What We’re Thinking?)

In a way, it led to Barack Obama’s adoption of the Bob the Builder slogan “Yes We Can”. I await Hillary Clinton drawing on ‘Blue Peter’ to back up her claims of experience, by adopting the slogan “You Might Want To Get An Adult To Help You With This Next Part, Because It Could Be Rather Sticky”.

26

Tsmoss 04.22.08 at 7:48 pm

@23: I’m not srue that lower turnout actually has a meaningful negative effect. I mean, its embarassing, but … Italy consistently gets abouve 80% turnout, and half the incoming cabinet is going to be neofascists or worse.

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