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Italy’s democracy ranking plummets due to far-right policies

Civil rights are at risk with "increasing support for 'strongmen' who bypass political institutions," report says.

Italy's democracy ranking plummets due to far-right policies
A protester in Rome decries the country's immigration reforms. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The policies of Italy's populist government, which came to power last June, have torpedoed the country's global democracy ranking in this year's global report on democracy.

The country dropped from 21st to 33rd position in the Economist Intelligence Unit's 2018 Democracy Index, mainly because of the presence of the far-right League in Italy's coalition.

“Deep disillusionment with political institutions, including parliament and political parties, fed through into increasing support for 'strongmen' who bypass political institutions,” the EIU, which is the respected research and analysis arm of the Economist Group, said in its report.

While the coalition also includes the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), the report singled out the League's deputy prime minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini for blame.

Salvini “has often used anti-foreigner rhetoric” and supported the evictions of immigrants and refugees and members of the minority Roma community from “illegal” camps despite a stop order issued by the European Court of Human Rights, the report said. 

READ ALSO:  Immigration to Italy: a look at the numbers

UN human rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet in September criticised Italy's treatment of migrants and minorities.

She slammed those who would build walls against migrants, as well as Salvini's decision to close Italy's ports to boats carrying migrants rescued at sea despite deaths on the Mediterranean.

Bachelet said she would send a team to Italy to assess what she said was a rise in reported violent and racist attacks on immigrants, people of African origin and Roma.

“All this contributes to the risk of a deterioration in civil liberties,” said the EIU report, which also “considers the extent to which the government invokes new threats as an excuse to curb civil liberties.”

Italy's parliament in November approved a controversial “security” decree which reduced humanitarian protection for tens of thousands of migrants.

READ ALSO: 

ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy’s elections

Scandal-plagued former premier Silvio Berlusconi said he plans to return to Italy's parliament in upcoming elections, almost a decade after being forced out over a conviction for tax fraud.

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy's elections

“I think that, in the end, I will be present myself as a candidate for the Senate, so that all these people who asked me will finally be happy,” the 85-year-old billionaire and media mogul told Rai radio on Wednesday.

After helping bring down Prime Minister Mario Draghi last month by withdrawing its support, Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party looks set to return to power in elections on September 25th.

It is part of a right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy, which includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Berlusconi brushed off reports he is worried about the possibility of Meloni – whose motto is “God, country and family” – becoming prime minister.

Noting the agreement between the parties that whoever wins the most votes chooses the prime minister, he said: “If it is Giorgia, I am sure she will prove capable of the difficult task.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

But he urged voters to back his party as the moderate voice in the coalition, emphasising its European, Atlanticist stance.

“Every extra vote in Forza Italia will strengthen the moderate, centrist profile of the coalition,” he said in a separate interview published Wednesday in the Il Giornale newspaper.

League party leader Matteo Salvini (L), Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni and Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi pictured in October 2021. The trio look set to take power following snap elections in September. Photo by CLAUDIO PERI / ANSA / AFP

Berlusconi was Italy’s prime minister three times in the 1990s and 2000s, but has dominated public life for far longer as head of a vast media and sports empire.

The Senate expelled him in November 2013 following his conviction for tax fraud, and he was banned from taking part in a general election for six years.

He was elected to the European Parliament in 2019, however, and threw his hat in the ring earlier this year to become Italy’s president — although his candidacy was predictably short-lived.

Berlusconi remains a hugely controversial figure  in Italy and embroiled in the many legal wrangles that have characterised his long career.

He remains on trial for allegedly paying guests to lie about his notorious “bunga-bunga” sex parties while prime minister.

Berlusconi has also suffered a string of health issues, some related to his hospitalisation for coronavirus in September 2020, after which he said he had almost died.

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