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Matteo Salvini's Northern League in 2016

Between Stasis and New Opportunities

Davide Vampa

Under Matteo Salvini’s leadership, the Northern League has sought to move away from its status of regionalist party to become a truly national (even nationalist) party, following the example of the National Front in France. For the new leader, the issues of federalism and devolution seem to play a less relevant role than opposition to the European Union and, more generally, to the so-called political establishment. This chapter shows that 2016 has been a transition year for the party. After two years of significant electoral expansion, the 2016 local elections seemed to mark a moment of stagnation. Salvini’s popularity ceased to grow and even started to decline. This posed some challenges to his right-wing populist project. Yet the concluding section of the chapter highlights the new political opportunities arising from Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election and from Renzi’s constitutional referendum defeat at the end of 2016.

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The 2016 Municipal Elections

Vincenzo Emanuele and Nicola Maggini

The importance of the 2016 municipal elections in Italy was a consequence not only of the number and relevance of the cities involved, including Rome, Milan, Naples, and Turin, but also of their timing, occurring in the middle of the 2013–2018 electoral cycle. These elections were thus perceived as a mid-term test for the national government, acquiring a relevance that went beyond their specific local context. This chapter analyzes the electoral supply, voter turnout, electoral results, and vote shifts, focusing on a synchronic and diachronic comparison of the performance of the candidates and the parties. The evidence presented shows that despite winning the plurality of municipalities, the Democratic Party clearly paid the cost of ruling at the national level. The number of its mayors was halved, and it was defeated in Rome and Turin by the Five Star Movement, the true winner of these elections.

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The Persistent Issue of Refugees

Organized Hypocrisy, Solidarity, and Mounting Protest

Tiziana Caponio and Teresa Cappiali

In 2016, migration issues in Italy became synonymous with the “refugee crisis.” Dramatic images of boat people, rescues, and the deaths of thousands of people in the Mediterranean Sea have catalyzed public attention. Examining the Italian government’s responses, we argue that the “refugee crisis” is the result of an “organized hypocrisy” aimed at containing, rather than managing, the crisis and at gaining access to international protection. Structuring the immigrant reception system on the opposition between humanitarian and economic migrants, Italian policies struggle to offer adequate responses to current mixed flows. Furthermore, this system often has a negative impact on local communities, where we find diversified responses that range from solidarity to opposition and, more recently, the emergence of a “reception market.” Additionally, our analysis suggests that the dysfunctional nature of the Italian reception system, combined with alarmist attitudes promulgated by the media, amplifies discomfort and contributes to an increase in public hostility toward immigrants.

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Relations with Europe

Beyond the Vincolo Esterno

Erik Jones

The relationship between Italy and Europe has changed since the 1980s. Where Europe used to provide a constructive external constraint (or vincolo esterno) on domestic Italian politics, now European constraints are less constructive and more problematic. At the same time, Italy has a more important role to play in contributing to European debates. The government headed by Matteo Renzi demonstrated both sides of this change in 2016. Renzi argued that European policies regarding macro-economic policy coordination, financial stability, and international migration did not help Italy. He also insisted that Italian proposals in these policy areas warranted closer European attention. Renzi was not successful in redefining Italy’s role in Europe, but he did win recognition for his efforts. The question is whether the government headed by Paolo Gentiloni will keep pushing in the same direction.

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Renzi Removed

The 2016 Italian Constitutional Referendum and Its Outcome

Martin J. Bull

The referendum of 4 December 2016 on Renzi’s proposed constitutional reform was the most significant in Italy since the referendum that rejected Berlusconi’s proposal in 2006. The 2016 outcome was more dramatic than its predecessor as it resulted in the resignation of the prime minister, who was succeeded in the office by Paolo Gentiloni. The referendum campaign was less concerned with the merits of the reform itself than with delivering an electoral verdict on the Renzi government. This was caused partly by Renzi himself, who declared that he would resign if the referendum failed, and partly by the inevitable partisanship of much of the voting and the influence of populist parties, which tapped into the dissatisfaction that many Italian voters felt. With two popular rejections of “great reform” proposals in the space of a decade, the future of institutional reform on such a grand scale is now in doubt.

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Yet Another Failed Attempt to Reform the Italian Constitution

Carlo Fusaro

On 4 December 2016, a large majority of Italian voters turned down the most comprehensive and cohesive attempt to revise significant parts of the Constitution since 1948, namely, to overcome the country’s symmetrical bicameralism, to establish new state-region relations, and to streamline institutions, in part by abolishing the provinces and the National Council for Economics and Labor. This chapter offers an outline of the reform, which had been boldly approved by Parliament, and places it within its political and institutional context. It identifies the changes that the reform was set to introduce, attempts to assess the effects it would have had if it had been passed in the referendum, and considers some of the consequences of its rejection.

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Editors’ Note

Slouching toward Armageddon

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Introduction

Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Children in the Middle East

Erika Friedl and Abderrahmane Moussaoui

Abstract

For several reasons there exist only relatively few ethnographic studies of children in the Middle East or in the diaspora. Accordingly, the articles in this issue of Anthropology of the Middle East represent thematically and theoretically highly divergent projects, all based on ethnographic topics and methodologies. Geographically they encompass different locations, and thematically they range from the history of childhood in Iran to matters of socio-cultural integration in Austria; from legal matters concerning youths in Algeria to socio-psychological problems of schoolchildren in Lebanon and to parent-child dynamics in Morocco. The short research, book and conference reports in this issue emphasize approaches and topics in critical anthropology as applied to the Middle East.

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Editorial

Raili Marling

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Death of a Statesman – Birth of a Martyr

Martyrdom and Memorials in Post–Civil War Lebanon

Are John Knudsen

Abstract

This article furthers the study of post–civil war memorialisation in Lebanon by analysing the trajectory of the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri from statesman to martyr. This transformative process offers a window into the symbolism of Lebanese statehood, and demonstrates how the politicisation of confessional martyrs is used to decry injustice and stake out claims to the state. There is no tradition for prosecuting and punishing political murders in Lebanon, causing victims to be pronounced martyrs. Impunity is therefore the major reason why martyrs and memorialising are so widespread. To this end, the article offers a semiotic reading of Hariri’s posthumous transformation from political patron to patron saint, and is a contribution towards the importance of martyr symbolism for understanding the purported weakness of Lebanese statehood.