Italy's Mayoral Wins Could Spark an Alternative Euroskeptic Discussion

© Sputnik / Natalia Seliverstova / Go to the photo bankWorld cities. Rome
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Voters in Italy have returned Rome's first female mayor, and toppled the incumbent mayor in the Northern city of Turin, delivering a blow to the ruling party and a boost to the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S).

The historic vote in Rome brings the first female mayor in 3000 years of political history, though Turin's result came as more of a shock to many, with M5S's Chiara Appendino beating one of the Democratic Party's strongest candidates, incumbent Mayor Piero Fassino, in the traditional center-left stronghold.

Rome's new mayor, 37-year-old lawyer, Virginia Raggi, used her victory speech to say that "for the first time, Rome has a female mayor in an age where equality of opportunity remains a mirage," adding that she would use her position to fight corruption: "I will be a mayor for all Romans. I will restore legality and transparency to the city's institutions after 20 years of poor governance. With us, a new era is opening."

M5S formed only 7 years ago and bills itself as the anti-establishment, anti-corruption party, with its five stars relating to its five key issues: public water, sustainable development, sustainable transport, right to internet access and environmentalism. It was co-founded by comedian Beppe Grillo, who in 2007 launched the party's infamous V-day events — coming from Vaffanculo Day (F**k-off Day) — to send a strong message against bad policies.

Though the party's ideology is not so clear cut, it doesn't fall into the traditional left-right dichotomy. While M5S are a Euroskeptic party, their arguments against the European Union differ from those given by right-wing Euroskeptics in other European countries, focusing on the detrimental impact that the adoption of the Euro had on the Italian economy. They are often referred to as 'soft' Euroskeptics as they seek a referendum on Italy's withdrawal from the Eurozone, but not a full withdrawal from the European Union.

With the major wins in Italy, and the party's continual gain in popularity, M5S could spark a discussion over the future of the European Union which differs from the rhetoric of the traditional Euroskeptics.

The current EU referendum in the UK has seen the Leave campaign dominated by right wing arguments, a trait seen in many European countries, though as research by American think tank Pew Research Center shows, Euroskepticism is not unique to the right of center parties. Greece has seen a strong rise in Euroskepticism amongst left of centers voters following the election of Alexis Tsipras's Syriza, the left of center anti-austerity party, with many viewing the EU as "austerity obsessed".

Research by the Pew Research Center also showed that there are some European countries in which "EU favorability" is higher amid right wing voters, such as Spain and Sweden.

Ideological splits on EU favorability

With the rise of parties such M5S, many left of center Euroskeptics are hoping that this may bring about a wider discussion about the problems with European Union, rather than one focused on migration and nationalism.

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