Investigating the features of three Italian populist parties (lega nord, forza Italia, 5 star movement) in terms of leadership and party claims



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Tartu Ülikooli Euroopa kolledž


The General Italian elections in 2013 offered interesting outcomes, which were assessed as the continuation of populist success which started from the early 90s when the major Italian populist parties Lega Nord and Forza Italia appeared on the political field. Populism in general represents a multifaceted concept and the nature of it varies according to a number of dimensions. As Paul Taggart emphasizes, considering the different ways in which populism is studied1, it represents a “highly chameleonic” phenomenon.2 The scholarly attempts to define populism as a concept offered a diverse and at the same time contradictious interpretations, which often consider populism from the different perspectives3. Italy is one of the relevant cases for the discussion of populism. The mentioned phenomenon has historically been successful in different regional contexts and managed to flourish in Italy as well in the early 90s. This period left remarkable trace in the history of the mentioned country, because exactly the Second Italian Republic witnessed the emergence of the three influential populist movements such as Lega Nord, Forza Italia and 5 Star Movement, which played and are still playing a significant role in the modern Italian politics. Numbers of works are dedicated to the study of the circumstances which are vulnerable for populist emergence; however less attention is paid to the analysis of how particular populist parties reflect the idea of populism in general. Moreover, the peculiarities of Italian populist movements are not thoroughly explored, especially considering the General elections of 2013 and the new political actor, 5 Star Movement. The following thesis aims to understand the nature of the three Italian populist parties and to find how they correspond to the major features of the populism phenomenon. Based on the existing literature regarding populism, the author of the following work identified two general (leadership and political claims) and six specific (Strong appeal to people, Charismatic leadership, Active use of media, anti-elitist, anti-establishment, anti-party rhetoric) features of populism and according to the mentioned features analyzed three Italian populist parties. Considering the main findings of the research, Italian populist parties correspond to the majority of populist features, however still there are differences according the specific nature of the political organization.