Corruption and the triumph of populism

photo: Livioandronico. Wikimedia. 

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Article by: Vitaly Portnikov

When the fight against corruption is accompanied by systematic discrediting of state institutions, this can only lead to the degradation of political culture and the collapse of authority.

Observers view the results of the Italian parliamentary elections as a triumph of the populists. Moreover, this success has been achieved both in the left-wing and right-wing camps. The Five Star Movement, formed by the circus clown Beppe Grillo, became the main leftist party of the country. And in the right-wing coalition, the leading party was the Lega Nord (Northern League), whose leader Matteo Salvini wants to become the new prime minister of Italy. Just recently the two parties were viewed as hopelessly marginal. Today, the future of the country depends on them.

But the question arises — how did this happen? Why did Luigi Di Maio, the leader of the Five Star Movement, call the parliamentary elections the birth of the “third republic”? Where did the first two republics go?

The first Italian republic emerged after the Second World War. In 1992, it collapsed under the weight of anti-corruption investigations. The politicians were not the only ones affected. Almost all the traditional political parties disappeared. And Italians developed a deep mistrust of state institutions. In this respect Italy is very similar to Ukraine.

The result of the death of the “first republic” was not so much the purge of the Italian political class as the transformation of Italy into an oligarchic state.

Silvio Berlusconi became prime minister for many years — a flamboyant personality virtually devoid of any principles. In the recent parliamentary elections Berlusconi attempted to return to power but, to his own surprise, saw Salvini’s party overtake him.

One of the most important results of Berlusconi’s rule was the continuing erosion of state institutions. Even here Italians managed to continue the fight against corruption. Don Silvio himself ended up under investigation. However, ordinary citizens became more and more convinced that politicians are liars and corruptionists who cannot be trusted.

As a result, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi failed when he tried to reform the state institutions.   And now his Democratic Party has allowed the populists to advance — a possible career-ending development for the former head of government.

Italians once again chose chaos. And this is the true meaning of the “Third Republic,” should it ever arise.

The action plans of the right-wing and left-wing populists have only one thing in common — they cannot be carried out. There is simply no indication there is an effective ruling coalition on the Italian horizon. The only thing the “third republic” would be able to accomplish is to make room before long for the “fourth republic” — a professional and responsible one. But until that time, Italians will be forced to learn that there are no miracles in politics.

As cynical as it may sound, they can take advantage of these opportunities. The Italian economy is capable of surviving more than one experiment simply because if worse comes to worse, the European Union will help the country, as it now helps Greece.

Ukraine, unfortunately, has no right to experiment. The triumph of populists in our country would mean only one thing — the collapse of the state and the further impoverishment of its citizens.

Does this mean that it is not worth fighting corruption? Not at all. The Italians did not have to put  up with the dominance of the mafia, the insolence of the politicians, the lies and nepotism — either in the first or the second republic. And it would be strange if Ukrainians accepted the total corruption in which we  live.

But when the fight against corruption is accompanied by the systematic discrediting of state institutions, it can only bring about the degradation of the political culture and the collapse of authority. And this is exactly what is happening right now in Italy. And this is exactly what can happen to us, with the difference that there is little remaining to degrade. Simply put, if your chicken does not lay golden eggs, you can raise the temperature in the henhouse, change the feed or find a new rooster. Or you can simply cut off its head — after all, a chicken rots from the head. Of course, the chicken will run a bit longer, but you will still not get your golden eggs.

Translated by: Anna Mostovych
Source: Espreso TV

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