The most obvious case is Italy. Former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, whose far-right League Party was sharing power uneasily with the anti-establishment 5Star Movement (M5S) in Western Europe’s first populist government, thought the country was ripe for a hard-right turn and pulled the plug on the coalition in mid-August, demanding an early election.
While “Il Capitano” toured the beaches, taking bare-chested selfies with supporters and breathing fire at Rome, his attempt to consolidate power collapsed. His erstwhile coalition partners held their noses and agreed to form a government with the mainstream, center-left Democratic Party instead. Italy has pulled back from the brink, at least for now, and is set to revert to more moderate, EU-friendly economic and migration policies.
Salvini’s failure has dented his party in opinion polls and raised first doubts about his leadership. But Italy’s wheel of fortune spins fast. The would-be strongman and master of social media may be back soon if the economy continues to flatline and the new coalition falters.