It’s immigration, stupid! On 4 March 2018, Italians head to the polls to elect their next government. International media coverage has been focusing on the debate around illegal migration in Italy, talking about “anti-migrant anger” finally bubbling over and defining the election. Is that really what most ordinary Italians care about, though?

The latest polling suggests that the right-wing coalition led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (Europe’s original “Donald Trump”) is likely to get the most votes. Berlusconi will indeed rely on the anti-immigration Lega Nord for support, though even then he will likely struggle to achieve a working majority (and, of course, Berlusconi himself is currently banned from public office, so will have to settle for the role of kingmaker).

The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement could end up with the greatest number of votes for a single party. Their official position on immigration is that they want to crack down illegal immigration, share the burden with other EU states, but also open up safe and legal routes for migrants to enter Europe. However, the 5-Star Movement will be unable to form a government on its own and has ruled out a formal coalition with other parties (though it is apparently open to negotiations on a policy-by-policy basis).

In short, nobody really knows what’s going to happen, particularly as this is the first election fought under Italy’s controversial new election law. So, is it maybe premature to blame everything on immigration?

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in by Rosy, warning that far-right political parties are capitalising on the immigration debate in Italy to boost support. Is she right?

To get a reaction, we spoke to Professor Piero Ignazi from the Department of Political and Social Sciences at the University of Bologna. How would he respond to Rosy comment?

Well, this is a very important issue. Immigration has become one of the most important questions in Italian politics. However, unemployment and the job market are still at the top of the priorities of Italian voters.

To get another perspective, we also spoke to Gianni Riotta, an Italian journalist, visiting professor in Italian studies at Princeton University, regular contributor to the daily newspaper La Stampa and former Editor-in-chief of the financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore. What would he say?

No, I don’t think so. It is going to be an issue, for sure, and it will attract voters to the right-wing, populist movements – especially Lega Nord, but it won’t be decisive. People who have strong opinions against immigration will vote for the Lega, and people with very strong pro-immigration opinions will vote for the Democratic Party or the radical left. But this is not going to be an election decided by immigration.

On the other hand, we also had a comment from Mario, who makes the case that the economy is going to decide the election. He says that, in Italy, it feels like the 2008 global economic crisis never ended, that politicians are all corrupt, and that salaries have been stuck at 2003 levels while prices have been constantly increasing. Isn’t this, ultimately, what voters care about?

What would Piero Ignazi say to Mario?

Well, in a way it’s true that the economy is the most important issue, but on the other hand it’s not about an evaluation of the economy as it looks today that will move voters to choose one party over another. It’s the rather the future outlook for the economy that will be the most important factor.

Apparently, the Italian electorate is quite pessimistic, and has a negative outlook on the economic perspective of Italy in coming years. That will be quite a strong driver to vote against the party in government today.

Finally, how would Gianni Riotta respond to the same comment?

Mario is right that in Italy the 2008 financial crisis had a much more damaging impact than in many other countries. This has nothing to do with corruption, it has to do with the structure of the Italian manufacturing sector. Italy has the second-biggest manufacturing sector in Europe, and the sixth in the world, so it’s very strong, but 4/5th of the companies in Italy are small- or medium-sized. This means that they are not really able to export and compete in a now-globalised market. So, when cheap credit and the protection that politicians and banks could afford drained out with the 2008 crisis, it all went belly-up. The unions at the time made it almost impossible in Italy to have any kind of social flexibility. So, the system was rigid and was devastated by the crisis.

I think that the economy will be crucial in these elections. There is actually now growth back in Italy, and the economic outlook is much more favourable than it used to be, but the positive effect hasn’t impacted on salaries yet, and especially in the South there are thousands and thousands of people that are unemployed, so they are angry and start voting for the 5-Star Movement of the maverick comedian Beppe Grillo.

Will the debate on illegal migrants decide the result of Italy’s election? Or is the economy more important to Italian voters? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Dave Collier

22 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    Of course it’s immigration, stupid! It has been for decades now.

  2. avatar

    Of course it will… This refugee and immigration crisis is not EU’s fault at all, but it has shown how EU policies had neither changed not helped un any way… We can’t blame EU, in general, for Syrian Civil War or for Lybia’s situation, but after this crisis we all learnt that EU wasn’t ready for the situation and that its policies couldn’t work at all…

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar


      The EU has contributed to the EU migrant crisis in MANY, MANY ways!

      The EU impoverished African and Asian farmers in favour of French farmers and German farmers – thus making ‘staying at home’ less favourable and the EU more attractive.

      The EU effectively killed millions upon millions of Africans and Asians as the EU’s trade barriers meant that African and Asian farmers could NOT farm economically and thus millions upon millions starved to death [remember LiveAid?] – all to engorge French farmers and German farmers.

      The EU’s porous borders encouraged poor Africans and Asians to wend their way to the Schengen zone.

      The EU Fuhrer AKA Angular Merkin issued an open invitation to all Africans and Asians that massively accelerated EU immigration and then has tried to hobble all and sundry who/that tried to point out the flaws in her arrogant and unsolicited de facto EU policy call to immigrant!

      The EU has done some good things that there can be no doubt BUT please kindly do not to gloss over the wickedness and evil perpetrated by the EU!!

      The crimes of the EU must be made known and accepted!

  3. avatar

    Of course the EU’s self induced migrant crisis will have an effect just has it did in Germany and will in every election or referendum in all 27 EU members. Merkel and Juncker have sowed the seeds of the EU’s destruction and there is nothing they can do about it.

    • avatar

      Wasn’t Cameron Great Britain decision bombing Lybia together with France Sarkozy in 2011 responsable for a part of the problems of the immigration and turmoil in North Africa?

    • avatar

      @Francesco According to your unelected European Politburo most of the migrants are not from war zones so what has the bombing of Libya got to do with it ?

    • avatar

      @Ivan they had no right to bomb Lybia, but because of their wickedness and selfishness, they always want to take what is not theirs. For example the turmoil in Lybia, and they always want to sell fire arms (weapons) look at what Putin did to Syria he has bombed that beautiful country and no want said anything about that. Halary Clinton did the same to Lybia and she killed the great Gaddafi in the name of he was dictator, and now some European citizens are talking about immigration? Your leaders had opened the door for immigration.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      “Your leaders had opened the door for immigration.”

      Said leaders were NOT elected – that is one of the reasons wgy the UK has decided to leave!

  4. avatar

    These are stone-cold hard facts but say this out loud and you’re “racist, bigot, nazi” etcetera.

  5. avatar
    Paul X

    Quote Gianni Riotta…. “people with very strong pro-immigration opinions will vote for the Democratic Party or the radical left”

    Be interesting to know who all these people are, there are no positives to illegal immigration, they bring nothing and drain a countries resources. Anyone who thinks this is ok clearly doesn’t contribute anything themselves

  6. avatar

    The Dubline II Regulation implemented in 2003 was not the most clever thing to do; the southern EU region, for geographial reasons due to being the closest way for the immigrant to get into EU, was penalized. I am not saying this because I am Italian, it is a matter of fact. Just wonder why certain populist will now get into power. Ciao

    • avatar
      Paul X

      Actually Dublin 2 was an attempt to spread the misery of illegal immigration, the assumption was because of Schengen, Illegals would wander freely to a country of choice and then claim asylum there.
      The reality is that most of them are being stopped at the EU border countries so they have to claim asylum there or get sent back

      Schengen was the most idiotic idea ever, driven by a naive ideology (as is much EU policy) , and Dublin 2 was only done to appease those unfortunate countries on the Schengen borders. The total failure of Dublin 2 is clearly obvious in the fact countries are now being forced to take immigrant quotas

  7. avatar
    Latif Mohammed

    The economy is a main factor is every country election
    1 to think about the industrial sector how is up
    2agriculture sector
    I see even bananna is imported into the country which the land of this country can withstand any crop
    3 there should be a system where 60%of product made in Italy should be consumed more than the foreign products
    When that things are put in place in will lift team moral of the local companies to compete more in the international market

  8. avatar

    Migrants is not the part of politics it’s a system ,if the current political leader can’t easily to handle it ,it will be a phenomena but during the election periods politicians must focuse on ECONOMICAL AGENDA to provide granted futures for the next generation and so the constitution of every sovergion nations is not favourable to the migrants so that once discrimination had have been normal to keep up the spesfic interste for a specific races of course these is the past and the current leader invisible negotiated un verbally so my point is to minimize or reduce the stream of migrant through the root of Mediterranean sea it’s not measure by Italian authority cosa italy is the part of EU not EU is the part of Italy so if u understand once italy alone haven’t possibility to deciding or invents new immigration policy whay politician mention immigration issues it to be elected

  9. avatar
    catherine benning

    Will the debate on illegal migrants decide the result of Italy’s election?

    What I find naive in this question is, the refusal of so many, both in and outside government or power, to acknowledge mass immigration from different cultural parts of the world will create unrest and lead to lawlessness as a result of force to absorb that which has to be rejected if a civilisation wants to stay within the traditions of its comfort zone. Now why is it that those who lead refuse to realise the warmongering this leads toward when they do this?

    What is it they expect to see as result of this human engineering? Are they so ignorant of nature and an understanding of the human condition, they are blinded this way? What has turned them against their own society to the extent they openly want to remove that society and culture from the face of the earth, by enforcing mass breeding with alternate social groups? And then expect this genocide to be welcomed with open arms by the indigenous population? It is an enigma of enormous magnitude. Yet, the ruling class virtually deny the right of any population affected to dare to openly discuss the matter. For the threat of shunning and incarceration is imposed on them, should they show any sign of wanting to review such policy. Marine Le Pen being one example, Wilders another and in the UK imprisonment of the BNP leader.

    In the UK right now the threat against those who want to speak out regarding so called Royals, who want to remain steeped in luxury and pomp, at tax payers expense, but present them with untenable individuals posing as ‘Royal Highnesses’ and wanting to believe the population will swallow it, without any kind of discussion. How delusional these people are. The Kings new clothes comes to mind. Or, Orwells, ‘some are more equal than others.’ Here is a group, who know their so called Royal blood is all but non existent, claiming equality as a premise, when everything they stand for goes against that notion from the offset You cannot claim ‘Royalty’ with a conviction to equality in the same breath. Psychosis comes to mind here. Not surprising when you consider the historical lead up to the mania.

    Even this thread is hiding behind reality by claiming, illegal migration, rather than openly expressing mass migration from alien lifestyles who find it impossible to assimilate. And as a result, find they demand the host culture absorb what they bring, be it totally opposed to that which they aspire to.

    This idea was generated at the concept of the EU. It was hidden for many years for fear it would be fully rejected, possibly by war. Only now it has reached complete saturation levels are glimpses of the policy being allowed to seep into society. Mostly due to the cat no longer able to be contained in the bag. The citizens are calling for clarity and reason. They are questioning loudly.

    This policy has been very difficult to translate into English as the direction the EU has taken from birth comes from a very large book written in German and Italian, a hundred years ago. The founder of this EU organisation set his plan out very clearly. Reading it is not easy, but the gist comes through loud and clear. Don’t be fooled, it is already well under way in our Western society.

    And in short.

  10. avatar
    catherine benning

    Will the debate on illegal migrants decide the result of Italy’s election?

    With the post I made earlier, the next step has to be to understand and have a knowledge of The Barcelona Declaration of 1995. It was an agreement made by EU States to enforce mass immigration and accept illegal immigrants into Europe regardless of the impact and cost made on the host States.

    So, all this immigration, illegal or otherwise, now being discussed a little more openly, was decided for us all long ago and has been engineered with a precision you do not see aimed at protection for the individual cultures of each of our States since the onset of this intention.

    Read this document carefully and be sure you fully understand the aims of the papers.

  11. avatar

    definetely. that’s the hot topic of the present elections.

  12. avatar

    Not significantly, as, I understand that Italians actually like people from the Middle East and North Africa. I do think it should though. I do believe the importation of thousands of people from other continents has been a major mistake and a wrong turn for the EU.

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