Rebuke of political establishment continues – this time it’s Italy

After David Cameron in the U.K., Hillary Clinton in the U.S., Nicolas Sarkozy, Alain Juppé and François Hollande in France, yesterday Matteo Renzi in Italy was also ousted by voters.

It’s not a good time to be part of the Western political establishment these days. A bunch of leaders in major countries has been recently ousted by voters – a sign that populism and the desire of changes is more than just a national thing.

It started when David Cameron had to resign after shockingly losing the Brexit referendum in the U.K. in June. In November, Hillary Clinton also shockingly lost the U.S. Presidential Election.

A few weeks later, the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2012) was ousted by voters during the first round of the center right primaries. Many pundits thought he was going to win the vote, as he’s still very popular among some center right voters (and he’s a former President). He didn’t managed to.

One week later, Alain Juppé, a 71 y.o. statesman who was Prime Minister from 1995 and 1997, largely lost the second round of this primary in favor of François Fillon, former Prime Minister of Nicolas Sarkozy who didn’t enjoyed favorable polls until the very last weeks before the vote. François Fillon got twice more votes than Alain Juppé.

Last Thursday, President François Hollande announced that he won’t seek re-election for President, an unprecedented move since the beginning of the French Fifth Republic in 1958. He’s credited of a 4% approval rating, the lowest approval rating for a French President ever.

And yesterday, the Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Renzi lost a referendum aimed to reform the Senate by a strong margin (60-40) and resigned. This resignation may open a period of political instability.

That’s a lot of leaders who have been ousted in a very short period of time. And the reason why is very often related to populism. This is especially true for the Brexit, of course in the U.S. and in Italy too (with the Five Stars movement). François Hollande also suffered from populism, coming first from his left (including within his own party) and second from the far right (when he tried to implement a far right reform after the Paris attacks in November 2015 as an attempt to unite the nation, a reform that strongly backlashed against him especially among its centrist supporters).

Nevertheless, populism does face resistance. Nicolas Sarkozy did a somehow populist campaign during the primary and was ousted during the first round. In Austria, the far right candidate lost the Presidential election rerun in favor of the Green candidate.

As populism and rebuke of political establishment is very strong among different countries 1, it suggests that the cause-s is/are also a common one-s. Is it related to the 2007-2009 economic downturn? To globalisation? To the Internet and the fake news problem? Or (more likely) a blend of all of theses? These are interesting questions to ask.

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