March 7, 2018

MICHAEL BARONE: The collapse of the Italian center-left.

Italy has a population roughly the size of Britain and France and is the fourth largest economy in the European Union — one that has still not recovered from the 2008 economic crisis. It’s big enough to matter, even to inattentive Americans.

And the results were something of a surprise, and rather different from the polls. The leading single party was the Movimento Cinque Stelle (Five Star Movement, abbreviated as M5S), but with only 33 percent of the vote for the Chamber of Deputies. (The small differences with the results for the Senate, for which the minimum voting age is 25, can be set aside.) . . .

One might have thought that negative or very sluggish economic growth might spur increases for a center-left party; as in so much of Europe, it seems to have had the opposite effect.

Rather, Italian voters seem eager not for redistribution, but for stopping the flow of Muslim and African immigrants across the Mediterranean and into Italian cities and villages. The pro-EU Centrosinistra is suffering, according to this theory, for its support of the EU nations, and especially Germany, which encouraged rather than stanched this flow; the more critical Centrodestra and the M5S seem to have benefited.

It’s another example of how German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s incomprehensible decision in 2015 to admit more than 1 million “refugees” and “asylum seekers” to Germany — which of course encouraged people to cross the Mediterranean into Italy — has produced results she must deeply regret, not only in her country but across the continent.