Daniele Albertazzi Comments on the Survival of Italy’s Conte Led Government for Politico

Daniele Alberttazi, Populism in Action’s Principal Investigator, provided commentary on the survival of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s government following a confidence vote for web-publication Politico.

He told Rome based news reporter Hannah Roberts, who wrote the website’s news feature that:

“He has played his cards very well. He may not have the genius of the post-war leaders, but he has shown the instincts to hang on. He was right not to resign and to ask for support in parliament.”

You can read the full news feature, which includes in-depth discussion of the background both to the vote, and Conte’s position in Italian politics, here.

Niko Hatakka Comments on US Capitol Invasion for Finland’s Yle Radio Station

Niko Hatakka – the Populism in Action Project’s Finland focused Research Fellow -was invited onto the national Yle radio station to take part in a discussion about the riotous invasion of the US Capitol Building in Washington DC by supporters of the USA’s outgoing President Donald Trump.

The programme sought to explore “What role does right-wing populism play in Washington chaos?” and was described by Yle in the following terms

The whole world has been following a completely extraordinary intrusion into the U.S. Congress Building and its aftercare. At the heart of it all is the controversy over the outcome of the November presidential election, which Trump’s most radical supporters are now pursuing. In the interview, Deputy Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, former Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja (sd) and Niko Hatakka from the Center for Parliamentary Research, who studied populism. Edited by Carolus Manninen. In the studio Aki Laine and Marko Miettinen.

The programme is listed here – and is accessible to anybody who is in Finland



Mattia Zulianello Explores the Impact of Covid-19 Upon Popular Support for Populist Radical Right Parties Across Europe for Italy’s Domani

In his latest op-ed for Italian newspaper Domani (31/12/20) our Italy focused Research Fellow Mattia Zulianello uses recent polling from across Europe to show that since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, support for populist radical right parties has – in the main – tended to remain intact.

Mattia summarises his article explaining that:

The majority of populist radical right parties (PRR) declined in the polls (i.e. voting intentions) in the year Covid-19 hit (18 out of 26), as shown by the variation between January and December 2020. During the first wave, PRR parties in govt. registered a considerable rise at the polls in the most acute phases of the crisis. However, during the second wave of Covid-19 PRR incumbents lost ground at the polls. This is shown in particular by Fidesz in Hungary and PiS in Poland. The 8 (out of 26) PRR parties that grew at the polls by the end 2020 are all opposition forces. Among them, the top-performers have been Brothers of Italy (+5.7%), the New Right in Denmark (+5.1%) and the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands (+3.5%). Overall, 2020 has NOT been an annus horribilis for European PRRs. Despite the broader negative trend in terms of voting intentions, the PRR parties in the European Union still lead the polls in Italy, Poland, Hungary and they are 2nd in France and the Netherlands, 3rd in Spain and Sweden (as well as in Italy). The pandemic has NOT wiped out the populist radical right even in countries where it has only made its appearance in recent years, such as Portugal and Spain. Furthermore, in an increasing number of countries, the political market is characterised by the presence of multiple successful parties of the PRR, a phenomenon that generates complex interactions of cooperation and competition, as the Italian case (Salvini vs Meloni) suggests. The pandemic in 2020 hence suggests a substantial resilience of the populist radical right even in the context of an unprecedented global crisis. PRR parties are here to stay. The pandemic has not inflected a fatal blow to these parties: on the contrary, it provides further evidence of the consolidation of the populist radical right in European political systems.

The full article can be read here (in Italian and paywalled).

Mattia Zulianello Writes for Italy’s Domani with Andrea Giovanardi

Populism in Action’s Italy focused Research Fellow has published his latest op-ed for the discussion focused Italian newspaper Domani. Written with the academic tax lawyer Andrea Giovanardi, Mattia describes the article as arguing:

that the proposal to provide regional autonomy to the regions of Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy and Veneto is often attacked on a priori basis. Instead, we maintain that enhanced regional self-government can be the only solution to achieve two key goals: first, making local territories accountable; second, tackle the profound public finance crisis in Italy.

A copy of the article (in Italian) can be read here.

Populism in Action’s Daniele Albertazzi Quoted in Belgium’s Knack Magazine

Populism in Action’s Daniele Albertazzi was quoted in Knack, a major current affairs weekly published in Belgium’s Flanders region. His comments appear in a substantial feature article published online on 8th December 2020, which explores the shifting contours of right-wing politics in Europe.

Key insights shared with the magazine include reflections on recent developments in Italy, with Dr. Albertazzi saying:

To everyone’s surprise, the Five Star Movement formed a new government with the center-left Partito Democratico (PD). Salvini has disregarded the main rule of Italian politics….  which states: “anything is possible”. At the beginning of this year, he also lost the regional elections in Emilia-Romagna, after shouting from the rooftops for months that he would oust the PD from power. He has lost his aura of invincibility, and he owes that entirely to himself.

The full (Dutch language) article can be read here (paywalled)



PiAP Team Media Work Round-Up of 2020

Engaging in dialogue, informing debate and sparking conversations about the phenomenon of contemporary populist radical right party politics beyond academia is an integral and a critical part of the work that the Populism in Action Project (PiAP) does. One of the main ways in which the research team does this, is by writing and producing content for general audiences, and through speaking with and assisting the work of communications professionals, such as journalists. Over the last year or so the project’s staff have between them racked up over 100 such appearances, whether as authors, contributors or expert advisors.

This has included apperances in broadcast, print and digital media outlets based in the UK, USA, Netherlands, Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, Finland, Ireland and publications whose audience is Europe as a whole, rather than the population of a specific geographical entity. Titles which have featured comment from PiAP’s researchers range from major outlets like The Financial Times, New York Times and the BBC to local newspapers which have run in-depth interviews with Research Fellows about the purpose of their fieldwork.

For some of the highlights from the project team’s media work in 2020 see below:

Particular highlights for individual team members include:

  • Daniele Albertazzi – PiAP’s Principal Investigator (project lead) – has contributed extensive insight to the Financial Times’ reporting on populist radical right party politics, and populist politics (especially in Italy), more generally this year. In addition to this his analysis has appeared in many other news reports, including in the Wall Street Journal, as well as in a major feature on contemporary populism and COVID-19 in Spain’s El Confidencial.
  • PiAP’s Co-Investigator Stijn van Kessel has also appeared in the highly regarded business press, with his thoughts and analysis featuring at length in a news feature published in The Netherlands’ Het Financieele Dagblad.
  • Following a highly successful first outing in the paper at the start of October 2020, Italy focused Research Fellow Mattia Zulianello is now a frequent columnist for Domani a new Italian “quality” newspaper focused upon longform journalism and expert analysis.
  • Niko Hatakka, PiAP’s Finland focused Research Fellow, has made numerous contributions to the country’s public discussion around both the phenomenon of contemporary right-wing populism, and questions around how political groups utilise and relate to new media and the communities that form on online platforms. Here he provided analysis for an article published on yle.fi.
  • Belgium (Flanders) focused Research Fellow Judith Sijstermans was invited by the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Constitutional Change to produce an in-depth portrait and analysis of Vlaams Belang, the party that she is studying.
  • In addition to his work on the project, Switzerland focused Research Fellow Adrian Favero has been appointed by the journal Government & Opposition as their Mick Moran Fellow to support their engagement work and find “…new ways to curate and promote the scholarship [Government & Opposition] publish both to ensure past insights do not get lost in the current political turmoil and to encourage innovative lines of inquiry and research.

In the wider world, PiAP Co-Investigator Scott Lucas of EA Worldview has provided relentless commentary and analysis of developments in the USA in the lead up towards, and the aftermath of, the 2020 Presidential Election:

Has Coronavirus Taken The Shine Off Italy’s Prime Minister Conte?

Defying a series of domestic crises and an unstable governing coalition in Italy, Giuseppe Conte (pictured) could become one of the country’s top 10 longest-serving Prime Ministers after 1945.

He has won credit from analysts, and from many Italians, for an honest and straightforward approach to the Coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 38,000 in the country.

But now Conte may become a political victim of the crisis.

In a Financial Times overview, the Populism in Action Project’s Dr. Daniele Albertazzi explains that Conte, a law professor, benefitted from the combination of competence and his status as an outsider among career politicians.

“Like many other leaders in Europe, Conte has enjoyed [an] increase in popularity, but he has also played it well. He has grown and he has surprised people,” Albertazzi says.

However, PiAP’s principal investigator continues, “But this time is different to February or March. The economy is going to be hit very badly, and people are getting very tired of restrictions.”

He cautions that Conte’s popularity is likely to take a battering in weeks to come.

We saw this with [economist and former Prime Minister] Mario Monti. People who come in from outside of politics are always quite attractive at the start, as Italians loathe the political classes. But then people quickly get sick of them as well.

Daniele Albertazzi Quoted in Politico EU Article

Populism in Action’s Principal Investigator Daniele Albertazzi provided expert insight and analysis for the Politico EU article “Italy’s 5Stars wage war on themselves” (08/10/2020).

This news feature piece by Rome based correspondent Hannah Roberts interviews activists in the Five Star Movement to get a sense of the ongoing controversy within the party over how Davide Casaleggio, the son of Five Stars’ co-founder Gianroberto Casaleggio, is making use of the position and power he has inherited within the movement following the death of his father.

As the person who ultimately controls the party’s online  decision making platform “Rousseau”, Casaleggio has extraordinary personal power, including over electoral candidate lists and internal votes, the rebels say. He also holds members’ personal data, including on how they have voted. Controversy as to how he is using this power has led a number of MPs and other elected representatives to quit the party, and prompted protests by activists and supporters at all levels of the organisation.

Commenting on the ongoing controversy in the movement Daniele Albertazzi reflects that this is a:

Defining movement [for the Five Star Movement]. A party cannot be managed by a private company. When they were setting up and growing it was easy to rely on a private company and the only way to achieve what they did in such a short time.

Now support is shrinking, they need to make some decisions about where they are going and who is going to take them there.

Italy Focused Research Fellow Mattia Zulianello Writes a Feature for Domani

PiAP’s Italy focused Research Fellow Dr. Mattia Zulianello has had a feature article published in Domani a recently created broadsheet style newspaper focused on longform journalism and expert analysis.

In the piece entitled This is Why the pandemics Have Not Killed Populism, the key points he makes based upon his research are:

Most European populist parties had a negative trend in their voting intentions in the first phase of the pandemic (until the end June). However, despite some notable exceptions, the decline in polls has been rather limited, and is far from being a debacle. More generally, various parties actually gained votes by the summer.

Governing parties in Europe, both populist and non-populist, tended to benefit from the rally-round-the-flag effect. In particular, right-wing populists in government in Europe have seen substantial growth in voting intentions when adopting the most stringent measures to contain the spread of the virus.




Has Coronavirus Exposed the Weakness of Populist Radical Right Parties?

Spain’s El Confidencial speaks with PiAP’s Daniele Albertazzi as part of a lengthy examination of the populist radical right today.

Albertazzi explains that, amid Coronavirus:

Cultural and identity issues, which are the ones on which populist radical right parties focus, inevitably become far less relevant to voters when they are fearing for their own lives. Then issues of competence and credibility take center stage instead.

Refugees, ships crossing the Mediterranean and the threat allegedly posed by Catalan separatists to Spanish national identity do not seem that urgent if you cannot even get out of your apartment or are scared that a trip to the supermarket will kill you.

And populist radical right parties are not generally seen as particularly competent in handling existential crises.

Other specialists quoted in the article include Nonna Mayer, Cas Mudde, Pippa Norris, Guillermo Fernández-Vázquez, and Giovanni Orsina.