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What's Next For Italian Politics


Italy's finally named a new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, a law professor who has never held political office. He is the voice of a coalition of right-wing and populist parties, the League party and the 5-Star movement. But first, Mr. Conte will have to win a confidence vote in Parliament this week. We're joined now by Beppe Severgnini, who's editor-in-chief of Corriere della Sera's magazine Sette, or Seven. Thanks very much for being with us.

BEPPE SEVERGNINI: You're welcome.

SIMON: What does it mean to have a populist party and right-wing party win the parliamentary majority?

SEVERGNINI: Oh, it's a very simple answer to a difficult question. We don't know. It's an experiment, not only for Italy, for the whole of Europe. I mean, for Italy today, June the Second is like the 14th of July in the United States. It's our birthday. The Italian Republic was born 72 years ago in 1946, and we never had anything like that. You know, the 5-Star are closer with sort of South American populist movement.

SIMON: Yeah.

SEVERGNINI: You know, you have good and bad over there. And the Northern League is a right-wing party. What will they do together? I don't know. I wish them luck.

SIMON: I should point out, before we get the emails, July 14th is France's birthday. July Fourth is the U.S.' birthday. But, you know...

SEVERGNINI: Thank you. My mistake.

SIMON: ...Just 10 days apart.

SEVERGNINI: We included France, which is nice. I apologize.

SIMON: No, I'm glad to include them. Is it possible Italy will leave the eurozone, or is that just talk?

SEVERGNINI: It's just talk. It's impossible. Do you remember the Eagles? This one I'm not getting that wrong because the Eagles is as important - "Hotel California."

SIMON: Sure.

SEVERGNINI: You can always check out, but you can never leave. That's it.

SIMON: (Laughter).

SEVERGNINI: The euro is like "Hotel California."

SIMON: Well, what do you foresee on the future? I mean, what happens next with a populist, right-wing government? I know we don't know for sure, but given your experience, what policies are most important to them, and what effect might they have?

SEVERGNINI: I think it starts with immigration. Italy is not sort of swamped by immigrants, but it is true that 600,000 came through from Libya and northern Africa in the last four years, and most of them have nothing to do. They roam the cities. And, of course, they're an easy prey for a little crime and stuff.

So that's something that the new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who's the leader of the Northern League, who is the real winner of this election - and also he's high up in the polls. He's an admirer of your President Trump and Vladimir Putin. He says the European Union is a Titanic - near - close to sinking. But I know him. I've known him for some time. He's actually a lot of talk. It depends whether once he's in office, he's going to behave wisely as a statesman, or he will go on with the campaign.

But immigration does start with that. And employment in the South, where the 5-Star movement was extremely successful, they got 40 - 45 - 47 percent of the votes - a huge success - is desperate. You know, Northern Italy is thriving. Southern Italy is in trouble. And young people don't have a job. I think Gigi Di Maio, who's the Minister for Labor and the economy and the enterprise - bum, bum, bum. He's young, by the way. He is first employment - we have a Minister for Employment whose first employment is to be Minister for Employment. It's kind of interesting.

SIMON: I'm afraid - I'm afraid we have to go. Sounds like we'll have a fresh viewpoint. Beppe Severgnini, editor-in-chief of Sette, thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.