A lesson for European leaders from Italy’s prime minister: How to buy votes


European politicians might, we recently suggested, be looking to learn something from Italy’s Matteo Renzi. While far-right and far-left euroskeptics gave many countries’ mainstream parties a drubbing in the recent European Parliament election, Renzi’s Partito Democratico (PD) recorded an unprecedented victory, getting 40.8% of the votes.

But in fact, Renzi’s strategy for getting votes wasn’t all that sophisticated. Basically, he bought them.

When Renzi decided to accept the Italian president’s mandate to form a new government in February, both he and the PD had a lot at stake. Renzi, then mayor of Florence, had not been elected to parliament, and many accused the PD of ignoring the voters’ will and returning to the old ways of Italian politics. Renzi had only a few weeks earlier been elected secretary of the PD with the motto “mai più larghe intese” (“no more broad coalitions”) and had to seek the support of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is banned from public office due to his conviction for tax fraud.

Since becoming prime…

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