The immigration burden is the hot button topic all over Europe. Right wing groups have gained shockingly fast traction in favor of an iron-fisted approach toward immigration. In Italy, the opposition to the largely ineffective and corrupt old guard is M5S. It is a stretch to think that M5S could rise to the top in the Italian vote count in the upcoming May 25 European Parliamentary elections, but it’s by no means an impossibility. A victory for M5S would send shock waves not only through Italy but through the EU in general. A similar shock could well be delivered by France’s Front National FN, which has a real chance to emerge victorious in the French vote count. Rebellious, hard right-wing parties are not going to capture the European Parliament, but may well emerge from the impending vote with enough power to demand significant change. Immigration laws would be front and center. The Globe and Mail profile’s M5S’s charismatic leader Beppe Grillo here.
On a breezy evening, under a cloudless sky and full moon, Mr. Grillo is in a particularly good mood. “Voi siete tutti belli” – “You’re all beautiful” – he shouts to thunderous applause in the main square of Novara, a pretty little city just west of Milan in northern Italy’s struggling industrial heartland.
That’s because his party, the Five Star Movement (M5S), stands to do well in the EU’s parliamentary election on Sunday. He is not seeking a seat for himself, but the firebrand former comedian punches the air as he tells the crowd: “We will win.”
He is not alone in his optimism. A new generation of populist “euroskeptic” parties – some left, some right and others, like M5S, impossible to nail down on the political spectrum – is expected to take as much as one-quarter of the assembly’s 751 seats.
That won’t form a majority, but is enough to cause trouble during the next stage of the EU’s arduous (and increasingly onerous) integration process.
Voters pay scant attention to the European Parliament between elections every five years, but this campaign is generating a buzz. Doubts about the grand scheme have gone from the fringe to the mainstream, and suddenly, pro-Europe forces are on the defensive.