Populism and #elezioni2018 in Italy

Today, Italy goes to the polls to elect a new parliament — and populist parties, including the Five-Star Movement and the far-right Lega, are poised to make gains at the ballot box.

Though I didn’t have any previous reporting experience in Italy, I spent a week there last month on a study tour organized by the Bosch Alumni Network and the Deutsch-Franzözisches Institut. Twenty journalists from around Europe came together to meet with politicians, small business owners and refugees (often over multi-course meals, cappuccino and/or wine). The trip was incredible for several reasons — not least of which because I confirmed, once and for all, that Italy’s campaign trail food is definitely the best campaign trail food.

First, for The Atlantic, I wrote about young voters in Italy and how growing up in the post-2008 recession era has helped drive them toward populist parties like the Five-Star Movement. A youth unemployment rate that’s almost twice the European Union average, combined with a major spike in temporary job contracts, make many of the people I spoke with think about leaving Italy to find opportunity elsewhere — and deeply distrustful of the political establishment.

My second story from Germany was a little different: to begin with, it was my first-ever article auf Deutsch. I started a two-month work placement at Der Tagesspiegel in Berlin this last week, and ended up writing a piece for them about how the far-right Lega (“League”) has used anti-immigration rhetoric and euroskepticism to transform itself from a regional party to a national political force. (For German-speaking followers, you can read that one here.)

The next big election is in Russia, where I unfortunately won’t be reporting. But I’ll be back on the European campaign trail again in late March: Hungary’s elections are on April 8.

Lunch with Giulia Sarti, a member of parliament from the Five-Star Movement, in Padua