Last month, Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s right-wing populist Lega party, attempted a Machiavellian power move. Hoping to take advantage of his soaring popularity, he brought down his own government, with the clear intention of forcing elections that would return him as Italy’s uncontested strongman. To his own and most Italians’ surprise, his jilted coalition partner, the Five Star Movement, turned around and formed a new government with the center-left Democratic Party (DP), until then the government’s principal opposition. 

And so Salvini had transformed what appeared as a moment of historic triumph for the right into a major opportunity for the left. Salvini had committed what the Italians call an autogol, a soccer term for accidentally kicking the ball into your own net. 

“The idea of saving our country from a swerve into dangerous populism based on hatred prevailed,” said Nicola Zingaretti, the secretary of the Democratic

Finish reading this article for free.

Enter your email and we'll send a paywall-free link directly to your inbox.

In addition to your unlocked article, you will receive our flagship weekly newsletter Foreign Affairs This Week, as well as occasional updates and offers from Foreign Affairs. You can unsubscribe at any time. For more information, visit our user agreement and privacy policy.


Get unlimited access to all Foreign Affairs. Subscribe now.

Are you already a subscriber? Sign in.