The countdown to Europe’s next pivotal election began on Thursday, when Italy’s president dissolved the Parliament and effectively opened the campaign for the first national elections in five years, scheduled for March 4. The move by President Sergio Mattarella now places Italy’s always tumultuous politics in the spotlight after a year in which populist forces, while beaten back in elections in several other countries, continued to reshape the political landscape across Europe. The general election will be Italy’s first since 2013, when the government led by the center-left Democratic Party succeeded the caretaker administration of Mario Monti, a technocratic who stepped in after Silvio Berlusconi, then prime minister, resigned in the midst of Italy’s debt crisis.
Much has changed in the politics of Italy — and of Europe — since then, especially the continuing collapse of traditional center-left parties and the deepening inroads of populist and far-right parties, from Eastern Europe to Germany, France and Italy.
Italy’s government, led by the Democratic Party, managed to fulfill its full five-year term, although it was a bumpy road for three different prime ministers, including the current one, Paolo Gentiloni, a former foreign minister.