Publication Date

April 2018


Camilla Zamboni, Giulio Gallarotti


Italian Studies, Government


English (United States)


The election year 2016 was a big year for populists in the United States- with a populist right and a populist left being represented by major candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, respectively. However, populism was neither novel nor unique to the 2016 election, and the trend that has been on the rise worldwide since the mid-20th century does not appear to be slowing in its growth, especially among Western European powers. With this in mind, this thesis answers the following questions. First, what led to the rise of Italian populist parties in the latter half of the 20th century and early 21st century? Second, why are they successful in finding representation at all levels (local, regional, and national) of the Italian political arena despite their paradoxical nature? Finally, although they've had numerous public scandals, why do these populist parties maintain a strong base? I chose to focus on Italy due to its role as an influential European power with Europe's fourth largest economy. Within Italy, this thesis focuses on three main populist parties, Forza Italia, LegaNord, and Movimento 5 Stelle. I argue that the parties' defining characteristic is their paradoxical nature, and that this label should be widely associated with Italian populist movements. I conclude that populist parties have arisen in the contemporary Italian setting because of recently heightened levels of corruption, leading to a disgruntled middle class that fears a perceived 'other.' The populist parties have triumphed in many elections using new media, and their success falls upon such tactics. They have also been able to maintain a strong base despite paradoxes and scandals due to the specific targeting of strong demographics, for example, the Northern Italian middle class, as a base, as these voters have a high election turnout rate. They also rely on platforms that outweigh their personal scandal, and find a base of voters through platform and ideology for party over individual candidate.

Available for download on Wednesday, April 15, 2020



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