Is Italy’s populist Five Star Movement set to win next month?

The anti-establishment and Eurosceptic movement has the wind firmly in its sails.

The next Italian election is due to take place on 4th March. The country is currently run by a centre-left coalition led by the Democratic Party. However, Italy could be the latest in a series of states to throw a populist tantrum.

The country's Five Star Movement, formed in 2009, currently has 88 members in the Chamber of Deputies, but it is likely to gain a whole lot more.

The polls

Until early last year, the Democrats led in the polls. But then, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement have been giving them a run for their money. When electoral alliances are split up into individual parties, the Five Star Movement have led in every poll this year. For example, the latest Termometro Politico poll puts them on 26.3% while also putting the Democrats on 21.3%.

If polling is to be believed, the Five Star Movement is likely to end up the largest party come early March.

The betting markets

According to Ladbrokes, the M5S is the favourite party to win the most seats (as of 23rd February). The company offers odds of 1/3 for such an outcome. In addition to this, it offers odds of 11/4 for the Democrats, 12/1 for Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and 20/1 for the right-wing Lega Nord.


2. Replacing the House of Lords

There is so much wrong with Britain’s upper-chamber. It is bloated to the extent that it is one of the largest legislative chambers in the world, and it is not in the slightest bit democratic. On top of that, the fact that there are still a significant number of hereditary peers is frankly an embarrassment to our so-called democracy.

But what’s the solution? Another elected chamber is one option – provided both have fair voting systems – but this would result in constant battles between the two. An alternative is the system used in Germany, which recognises individual parts of the UK and gives them power over UK-wide issues. With devolution now ingrained into British politics, this is an interesting solution to turn the Lords into something much better. Germany’s Bundesrat is made up of representatives from all sixteen states, with voting power varying slightly by population sizes. This is similar to the American Senate, where different states are recognised, but does so in a way that let’s sub-UK governments be heard.

3. A Written Constitution

The UK’s lack of a written codified constitution and reliance on precedence and tradition sets us apart from most of the rest of the world. Having a written constitution would set out clear rules regarding the powers of different levels of governments, the rights of British citizens, and most relevant for the current situation set out rules regarding referendums.

Referendums in the UK historically take place out of political necessity but look at Ireland. Amendments to the Irish constitution can only occur if voted for in a referendum. A written constitution that outlines such procedures like Ireland does will provide a much-needed framework for such democratic decisions while also protecting the rights of individuals and different levels of governance.

4. A Federal Britain

Federalism has long been called for in the UK, but little has been done to initiate it. The Liberal Democrats have long backed it while elements of Labour have shifted in that direction. A Federal Britain, in which powers are brought closer to the people, will loosen Westminster’s tight grip on the country and end the remnants of the one-size fits all approach from the time before devolution.

The main problem with this however, is England. Should England be regionalised, or should it remain one large entity within the framework of a federal Britain? That’s a question for a constitutional convention and a likely series of referendums.

Either way the people should have their say.

5. Improved Political Education

Education is the key to advancing individuals in society and advancing society itself.

Specifically, substantial, obligatory and non-biased political education is long overdue. If people are to be informed for elections, they need to understand how the system works, who the main political players are and the importance of voting in the first place.

The key to a healthy democracy is a knowledgeable population. Political education in schools is a much-needed solution to our ill democracy.

6. Automatic Voter Registration

One barrier to voting in the first place is the fact that individuals must register ahead of polling day. Generally, this is a simple procedure that takes a few minutes, however, that’s not the point. Individuals should have an automatic link with the political system via being able to vote from the get-go.

Automatic registration takes place in other countries, why not here?

Let’s make voting easy.

7. Compulsory Voting…For First-Time Voters

Many individuals, including myself, are very vary of making voting compulsory. The freedom not to vote is an important freedom and people should vote for the sake of it.

However, the proposal for first-time compulsory voting is a compromise that could set voters on a path to consistent engagement as there is strong evidence that voting is habitual, meaning that once individuals start they will continue to do so for the rest of their lives. Perhaps it would be worth piloting this to see its impact.

The proposal