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Political Turmoil: The Rise of Populist Rhetoric in Austria and Italy

December 9, 2016


austriaHeinz-Peter Bader/Reuters


On December 4, 2016, Austrians went to the polls to cast their votes in a rerun of the presidential elections. Since the aftermath of American elections, calculations on the electability of radical candidates have changed. The campaign of right-wing Freedom Party member, Norbert Hofer, was similar to that of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump. Supporters of Hofer say that he represents the next pillar in a “new world order”. Campaign slogans of “Make Austria Great Again” popped up across the internet. Some individuals even posted memes displaying the country’s former borders during the period of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

In contrast to Trump’s blunt speaking style, Hofer comes off as more neighborly. When asked about Trump’s election campaign, Hofer stated that, “I’m happy that we don’t have anything like this in this style in Austria.” Nonetheless, Hofer embraced a similar platform to Trump in regards to his pro-Russian and anti-immigrant sentiment.

Although Hofer did not win the Austrian presidential elections, the recent poll displayed how well populist candidates may fair across Europe. Hofer accumulated 46.7% of the votes compared to the 53% garnered by his opponent Van der Bellen. In spite of his lost, Hofer’s Austrian Freedom Party still remains a formidable force in Austrian politics.




After the defeat of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s constitutional revision plan, Renzi decided to resign from his position. Anti-immigrant and anti-euro populists on both sides of the political spectrum have taken this opportunity to gain access to their nation’s highest office. Parties such as the Five Star movement are polling similar percentages to Renzi’s center-left Democratic Party. Five Star lawmaker in the lower house of the Italian Parliament, Manilo Di Stefano, sees a trend that is spreading all over Europe. Citizens are no longer satisfied with the status quo. Besides the the same old politics, Italian votes have felt alienated by Renzi for over two years.

The recent referendum resulted in 59% of voters opposing the revisions proposed by Renzi. Choosing a successor to Renzi will now lie in the hands of Italian President Sergio Mattarella. Renzi was asked by Mattarella to postpone his resignation until the government passes the budget. In the meantime, Renzi will act as a “caretaker prime minister”. Although this delay may provide more time for succession planning, the political situation will not drastically change. Allies of Renzi saw the rejection of the constitutional changes on Monday as a momentous setback. Brexit started the process of disintegration, and many believe that the European Union must diverge from the status quo.



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