Italy’s Elections Oust Pro-EU Italian Culture Minister and Usher in a Wave of Right-Wing Populism

The pro-European culture minister has had his seat nabbed by a member of one of Italy's anti-establishment parties.

Minister of Cultural Heritage Dario Franceschini (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Italy’s election this past weekend has brought substantial upheaval to the European country, as right-wing populist parties made huge gains, with early projections suggesting a hung parliament. Several prominent politicians have lost their parliamentary seats—including the country’s center-left culture minister Dario Franceschini.

Franceschini came in second in his region in the election to the single-member constituency for the Chamber of his city, Ferrara, with just over 29 percent of the vote. His seat was swiped by Maura Tomasi of the center-right party Eurosceptic Northern League with 39.7% of the vote. Northen League is an anti-establishment party that is relatively new–the party’s platform is loudly anti-migrant and anti-European Union.

The politician is, however, the leader of the plurinominal electoral college in his region, so he will continue to sit in the Chamber of Deputies in Italy’s parliament in Rome.

One of Franceschini’s major efforts as culture minister was to modernize and internationalize Italy’s museum landscape. The culture minister’s momentum came to an abrupt halt last summer when an Italian court ruled that five of his director appointments—who were all non-natives to Italy—would be annulled.

Florence’s Uffizi Gallery. Photo by John Kellerman/Alamy

Franceschini had been trying to bring international figures to cultural sites in Naples, Taranto, Reggio Calabria, Mantua, and Modena, as part of an effort to revive struggling museums with foreign expertise. Previous to these appointments, only native Italians were able to apply for these positions. After the ruling, Franceschini tweeted that he was “speechless.” In a video interview, the pro-EU politician expressed concern over defining other Europeans as foreigners.

In 2015, Franceschini also appointed German art historian Eike Schmidt to the renowned Uffizi Gallery. Schmidt has since announced that he will be leaving the position in 2019 to take over Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum in 2020.

Early voting results showed that the 31-year-old Matteo Salvini may be set to lead Italy’s parliament, following a campaign in which he emphasized support for radical immigration policies, including mass deportations of illegal immigrants. His party earned almost 18 percent of the vote to become the country’s main conservative party.


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