April 16, 2020

The Coronavirus Is Exposing Populists’ Hollow Politics

By Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Carisa Nietsche

At first, the spread of the coronavirus seemed like a boon for Europe’s populists. In Italy, Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far-right League party, used COVID-19 to advance his xenophobia. Salvini circulated a video of a migrant ship arriving in Italy, falsely implying that migrants were responsible for the outbreak. Along with other far-right leaders in Europe, Salvini also used Europe’s border closures as another opportunity to vilify the European Union and its commitment to the free movement of people.

Yet the continuing crisis is having the opposite effect—it’s exposing Salvini’s shortcomings and undermining many of the drivers that fueled his support. Since the start of the pandemic, Salvini’s public support has fallen to its lowest point since July 2018. But rather than ushering in gains for Italy’s more centrist, mainstream parties, Brothers of Italy—a party to the right of even Salvini’s League, with ties to fascism—has gained in the polls.

Read the full article in Foreign Policy.

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