"Ideological votes are ceasing to exist"

Gianfranco Pasquino

The ICPS and the Jean Monnet Chair in European Policies organised the cycle "Dialogues On Europe", which ended on 13 June with a debate with Italian politologist Gianfranco Pasquino in which he discussed the future of Europe with lecturers Ana Mar Fernández and Joan Botella.


Gianfranco Pasquino, emeritus professor of political science of the University of Bologna, Italy, and one of the main figures of political science in Europe, took part on 13 June in the debate entitled "The Future of Europe Within the New Political Scenario" together with Joan Botella, UAB professor of political science, and Ana Mar Fernández, head of the Jean Monnet Chair of European Policies and lecturer of the UAB Department of Political Science and Public Law. The debate closed the "Dialogues On Europe" cycle, organised by the Institute for Political and Social Sciences and the Jean Monnet Chair in European Policies.

Do you think there will be elections in italy soon?

No. This is the first true experience in governing for both of the parties, the Movimento 5 Stelle and the Lega Nord, and they do not want to forfeit their power. And the president of the Republic will not want to dissolve the parliament, either. Early elections are not the solution for the problems of Italy.

Now the issure revolves around applying the "minibots", those public IOUs which could end up being parallel currency.

This is a trick that has no future. The European Central Bank has criticised it and only some fro the Lega Nord want to use it; maybe they think they can be used to leave the European Union, which would be disasterous. The "minibots" indicate that they want to change something in the relation between Italy and the Eurozone, but that they are not sure exactly what that is.

Why are the Lega Nord's policies so well accepted now? Does it have to do with Salvini's personal charisma?

It is Salvini, but there is also a lot of work behind the scenes: they have an excellent communications team. And many Italians are unsatisfied with politics. Salvini appeals to men and women who think he is capable of bringing about important changes and that no other politician in Italy can do so. He is skilled at managing antipolitics.

There is a surge in charismatic leaders who are "selling" this apparent rupture with traditional politics: Salvini, Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro...

I am not sure Trump, Bolsonaro and Salvini have charisma; De Gaulle and Churchill were charismatic; what they have is visibility. And they represent a not-so-sophisticated public opinion, so to say. Public opinion is undergoing a global change: when a leader offers a quick and simple solution, people accept it. But it is highly unstable, these leaders do not stay in power for long. Trump could lose the following elections, and Salvini is popular now, but who knows if he still is in a few years.

Many states in Europe have a bi-party crisis which leads to a new system of parties. Why is it happening in so many countries at the same time?

All of this is product of the end of the social democracies. Many people now believe that they will not benefit from all the state of welfare had offered in the past and that thy can obtain it without the need of a political party or trade union. It is a new individualism, in which people vote different parties at different moments. There is no loyalty. The conservative parties continue to exist more or less; social democrats are visibly declining.

And votes are becoming less ideologic.

Ideological votes are ceasing to exist. But the social democratic vote was not only ideological, but also an organised vote: it represented belonging to groups, lifestyles, communities. And now there are no communities of workers.

The good results of the green parties in the past European elections are speculative or will they mark a tendency?

This is something which will continue because environmental problems will continue and they must be solved. And the green parties do not only focus on environmental issues; they are also the parties defending people's rights. Today, in the majority of European countries, and in Germany specifically,  green parties are the parties of freedom. Voters recognise that green politicians are coherent.

What do you think about this tendency among the popular classes to vote for far-right options, anti-immigrants, etc., while the middle classes are more inclined to vote for more progressive parties?

This may probably so, but we must take into account that it is the lower classes who deal with immigration while middle classes do not. And immigrants also produce problems, not only solutions, as some intellectuals would have you think. Left-wing parties should take that into consideration when convincing the popular classes: diversity is a value and this can help us improve. If they do not achieve this, they cannot win. And it is also an issue that implies a strong emotional component.

What does "populism" mean to you? Is the term not used to define a diversity of things, ranging from Venezuela's government to Salvini's policies?

Populism is that what we do not like. [Laughs] There have been populist leaders throughout the history of time. Populism is the direct relation between a leader and the people. People who are not organised but formed by individuals who want simple solutions; and the leader is the one to say he has the solution. If the social fabris is not organised, populism sees an opportunity. Populism in Venezuela is the product of the implosion of the two dominating parties. In Italy, Salvini speaks directly to the voters. However, I do not consider Marine Le Pen  a populist leader; she is a strong leader of the traditional right extremist in France.

Many far-right wing parties have entered the European Parliament, but they are divided by some aspects. What do you think is the true capacity of influence of these parties within the European institutions?

They have not won, that is for sure. They have many representatives, but not enough as to create a minority block. And they have different perspectives: they want to defend national interests, and the interests of Hungary are not the same as Poland, or Italy, or France. They cannot build anything coherent and will have a hard time in the European Parliament. In contrast, their existence may force Europeanists to speak more clearly, become more united and put forth more proposals.

Is political science capable of interpreting the reasons behind all the transformations we are witnessing in the global political scenario?

Political science is very important in order to interpret these transformations. Huntington interpreted the situation in the United States when he described them as a solitary power unable to create coalitions; Fukuyama was correct when he interpreted the end of history s the end of confrontations between liberal democracies and the Communist regimes which have disappeared; and Huntington once again interpreted the emerging problem of the clash of civilisations, which we cannot deny. Therefore, there have been very important interpretations. Political science has the tools needed to analyse modern political phenomena and foresee new ones in the future.

More information: Political and Social Science Institute of Barcelona (ICPS)
Jean Monnet Chair in European Policies (EUPOL)


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