Wake up, Italians – our country is in a state of democratic emergency | Roberto Saviano

Photo of Wake up, Italians – our country is in a state of democratic emergency | Roberto Saviano

With migrants being subject to racist attacks and journalists being left undefended, Italy needs to rediscover its better self

This month marks a year since the last general election in Italy. Three months afterwards Matteo Salvini’s League and Luigi di Maio’s Five Star Movement (M5S) took power. It’s time to take stock – even though, to tell the truth, we can’t stop stock-taking – such is the desperate situation the country finds itself in. First and foremost, we are in a democratic emergency. Some feel there’s no need for alarm; after all nobody seized power by force, and the government enjoys a high level of popular support (an approval rating of approximately 60%, according to polls). But clearly, just because a government enjoys support we should not stop being clear-eyed about what it is doing. A liberal democracy does not become authoritarian within a few months, but there are signs, however slight and seemingly unconnected, that seem to chart this depressing journey.

A few weeks ago the Italian media greeted with alarm a report the secret services had submitted to parliament. The picture it painted was hugely serious, especially in two areas: the growth of racist incidents as we approach the European elections in May, and the inability – given the propaganda and focus on closing ports to migrants from Libya – to curb secret landings using small, fast boats, which could be bringing passengers linked to terrorist groups.

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