Italy’s 2018 elections will hinge on immigration

Street protest in Rome against admitting immigrants
Public meeting in Rome's Piazza della Rotonda against the reopening of the Identification Centers for Migrants ordered by the government (souce: dpa)
  • In 2017, the number of migrants arriving in Italy by the Mediterranean was sharply down
  • Italy’s new electoral law will loom large in determining the winner in 2018
  • Italian politicians appear to believe that there is no market for a more liberal approach

Whoever wins the next Italian election is bound to promise to get tougher on immigration. Voters are increasingly concerned about the issue, though it is far from obvious that the country is going through an “immigration crisis.” Pro-immigration advocates harp on Italy’s need to expand its labor force and shore up its social security system, but the point is hardly winning hearts and minds. A deciding factor in the upcoming elections between the left, the right and the populist Five Star Movement could be the contestants’ ability to take a credible, tough position on the issue.

According to a 2016 Eurobarometer analysis, immigration is perceived by 49 percent of Italians as Europe’s most significant challenge. As many as 42 percent also consider it the most important domestic issue, though more Italians (47 percent) rank unemployment at the top. Tellingly, these figures far outstrip concern about terrorism, which is rated as the most serious European issue by 23 percent of Italians and the most pressing problem domestically by only 8 percent. While fear of immigration and fear of terrorist attacks are often conflated, Italian voters seem to distinguish sharply between the two.

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