Vox Populi - PhMuseum

Vox Populi

Gianni Cipriano

2013 - Ongoing

Decades of corruption, mismanagement, economic recession, soaring youth unemployment following the 2008 financial crisis, as well as the impact of the 2015 refugee crisis have resulted in a trend, rising throughout Europe, of declining trust towards the establishment that was unable to solve concrete problems and of rising of new populism.

In Italy, the League and the Five Stars Movement are the two populist forces that offered immediate and obvious answers to complicated problems and claimed to represent the downtrodden people against a corrupt and distant elite.  Social media provided the perfect platform for both lines of attack.

For over five years I covered the upheavals of Italian politics and its effects on the territory and the people across the country, with the aim of producing a meditation on how the simple gesture of casting a vote can influence our society.

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  • A resident of Torretta, a village in the province of Palermo, Sicily, waves an Italian flag to celebrates the victory of the newly appointed mayor Salvatore Gambino, founder of the local party "Torretta Changes", shortly after he was elected.

    Seven months after the victory, the Prefecture of Palermo sent inspectors to the municipality of Torretta to verify an alleged mafia infiltration. After an eight-month investigation, the inspectors reported there wasn't any.

    Earlier in 2005, Italy's Interior Ministry dissolved the city council of Torretta for mafia infiltration. The mayor at that time was Filippo Davi of Forza Italia (Silvio Berlusconi's party) who, during the campaign, had allegedly promised water supply in exchange for votes.

  • Matteo Salvini, leader of the League and Minister of Interior, salutes the crowd of 80,000 supporters that gathered in Piazza del Popolo (People's square) in Rome.

    Matteo Salvini took charge of the League in 2013 when it was a small, scandal-plagued regional party scoring around three percent in the polls. Under his leadership, and fuelled by anti-migrant rhetoric, the League has become a national force that won 17 percent of the votes in the general elections of March 2018, enabling it to form a coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.

    Since taking office, Salvini has made good on promises to slow drastically the arrival of mainly African migrants into Italy, and has seen support for the League surge to around 34 percent, making it the largest party in Italy.

    The League's slogan is "Italians First!"

  • A child rips off political campaign posters in Naples.

    Since the first Italian democratic elections in 1948, voter turnout has gradually decreased. The voter turnout in the 2018 general elections was the lowrest in Italian history: 73 percent.

  • A senator of the center-right party Forza Italia (led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi) in his seat in the Italian Senate in Rome.

  • Massimo Toppi, a candidate for mayor with the center-left Democratic Party, rallies in a parking lot in the outskirts of Priolo Gargallo, Sicily.

    Priolo Gargallo is home to the petrochemical plant of Augusto-Priolo which, since the 1950s, has radically changed the social structure of the area by bringing more jobs at the expenses of the environment and public health.

    Mr Toppi lost the local election over Antonello Rizza of the center-right Forza Italia (Silvio Berlusconi's party), who scored 66 percent of votes. Later in 2017, while still in office, Mr Rizza was indicted and arrested on 22 counts, including corruption, extortion, criminal conspiracy and fraud. Prosecutors asked for a 15 years incarceration verdict which will be decided in early 2019.

  • Local entrepreneurs, managers and politicians participate at the laying of this first brick for the extension of the Pineta Grande Hospital of Castel Volturno inaugurated by Vincenzo De Luca, Governor of the Campania region and member of the center-left Democratic Party.

  • An Italian voter casts a ballot in Naples.

  • Gianfranco Micciché, member of the center-right party Forza Italia running for Governor of Sicily, meets his supporters at a campaign rally in Palermo during the 2006 regional elections.

    After working in the 1980's as a manager in Publitalia, Silvio Berlusconi's advertising company, Micciché became coordinator of Forza Italia for Sicily and was elected in 1994 in the Chamber of Deputies in Berlusconi's first government. Since then Micciché has held numerous offices: Member of Parliament, Minister for Development and Territorial Cohesion, Deputy Minister of Economy and Finance.

    According to a 2002 report conducted by the national gendarmerie, Micciché was allegedly the recipient of 20 grams of cocaine brought to the Ministry of Economy and Finance, where he was Deputy Minister at the time. The allegations were never confirmed and Micciché has never been indicted.

    He is currently the President of the Sicilian Regional Assembly and a Member of the European Parliament.

  • A dog eats leftovers on the seafront nearby the Crescent construction site in Salerno. The Crescent is a 7-story building for which Vincenzo De Luca of the center-left Democratic Party, former mayor of Salerno and current President of the Campania region, was investigated: he was indicted, and later acquitted, for the acquisition of state-owned areas on which the Crescent is built.

  • Candidates running for the city council of Torretta, a village in the province of Palermo, listen to their leader and candidate for mayor Betty Gambino, founder of the local party "Riprendiamoci Torretta" (Let's take Torretta back), as she gives a public speech from a balcony during a rally.

    Mrs. Gambino resulted last in the polls with 12 percent of votes: neither her nor her candidates won a seat in the city council.

  • Two guests chat at the "Maternity Day" event organised by Sara Iannone, a center-right candidate running for the city council of Rome and supporting the re-election of Mayor Gianni Alemanno, during her campaign in the 2013 municipal election.

    Gianni Alemanno (1955) started his political career in the Fronte della Gioventù, the youth organization of the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement. Alemanno was Minister of Agriculture under Silvio Berlusconi between 2001 and 2006 and Mayor of Rome between 2008 and 2013.

    Gianni Alemanno is currently on trial for corruption and illegal financing to political parties. According to the accusation, Alemanno allegedly received 125,000 euros from Salvatore Buzzi, a Mafia lieutenant convicted last year to 19 years of prison.

  • Former Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi is surrounded by members of his Forza Italia party, in the Italian Senate.

    Berlusconi is the first populist in Italian history since the country became a democracy in 1946. In 1994, Berlusconi found wide public support by claiming that people were exploited by a condescending elite. In the early 1990's a nationwide judicial investigation into bribery, nepotism and other forms of corruption turned upside down the whole Italian party system, which cleared the way for Berlusconi that since then has become four times Prime Minister of Italy.

    In November 2013, the Italian Senate voted to expel him from Parliament over his tax fraud conviction.

    That same day Berlusconi declared himself a victim of persecution.

  • Two men look outside of a window of the Lower House at the end of the first session of the 17th Parliament of the Italian Republic elected in the 2013 general election.

    The anti-establishment Five Star Movement, founded by the comedian Beppe Grillo and his social media guru Gianroberto Casaleggio, participated for the first time in the national election and become the third political force by winning 25 percent of the votes in 2013. Its 163 novice politicians arrived for the first day of the new Italian parliament and vowed to open it up like a can of tuna to reveal its secrets and schemes.

  • Matteo Salvini, leader of the League and candidate for Prime Minister of Italy, poses for a group selfie in Milan's Piazza del Duomo after a rally during the campaign for the 2018 Italian general election.

    Matteo Salvini uses social media to cultivate his public persona and for his propaganda, much of it directed at scapegoating immigrants.

    In the six months since he became Deputy Prime Minister, his use of social media has intensified and his popularity has risen to the point to have the largest Facebook audience (3.4 million) than for any other politician in Europe.

    Salvini's social media managers are now official staff members of the Interior Ministry, costing taxpayers €314,000 a year. Together they produce a constant social media content, much of it fuelling animosity toward migrants.

  • Fellow citizens and supporters of Luigi Di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement who returned to his his hometown Pomigliano d'Arco to celebrate the movement's victory in the 2018 Italian general election, greet and photograph the leader as he leaves the celebration event.

  • An empty stage with Italian flags before a political rally is set up in via d'Amelio, where anti-mafia magistrate Paolo Borsellino was assassinated by a car bomb placed by the mafia in 1992, in Palermo.

    In recent years Italian mainstream political parties have mostly conducted their campaigns indoors to avoid public unattended squares. Populist forces, such as the Five Star Movement, have instead rallied outdoors and filled squares thanks to their rising support.

    But it is especially digital politics and social media that are becoming increasingly relevant for both political parties and citizens. In the two-month campaign for the 2018 general election, Luigi Di Maio (leader of the Five Star Movement) and Matteo Salvini (leader of the League) dominated Facebook traffic with viral videos and personal live broadcasts, by securing about 7.8m Facebook likes and shares each. Since then they are in a power-sharing coalition and both became Deputy Prime Ministers.

  • Fellow citizens and supporters of Luigi Di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement who returned to his his hometown Pomigliano d'Arco to celebrate the movement's victory in the 2018 Italian general election, photograph and greet the leader as he leaves the celebration event.

  • A view of Piazza del Popolo (People's Square) in Rome where 80,000 supporters of Matteo Salvini and the League gathered for a rally.

    Matteo Salvini took charge of the League in 2013 when it was a small, scandal-plagued regional party scoring around three percent in the polls. Under his leadership, and fuelled by anti-migrant rhetoric, the League has become a national force that won 17 percent of the vote in the general election in March 2018, enabling it to form a coalition with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.

    Since taking office, Salvini has made good on promises to slow drastically the arrival of mainly African migrants into Italy, and has seen support for the League surge to around 34 percent, making it the largest party in Italy. The League's slogan is "Italians First!"

  • A scrutineer waits for voters in a polling station of the 2013 Italian general election set up in a secondary school.

    The 2013 election represented a true earthquake for the Italian party system. The anti-establishment Five Star Movement, undergoing its first electoral contest, was able to achieve 25.6 percent of the votes. Moreover, for the first time, three parties received more than 20 percent of the votes, consequently transforming Italy from a fragmented bipolar system into a tripolar system.

    No party, nor coalition of parties, won the majority of seats. What followed was a political crisis that was overcome only through a compromise which led to the formation of a grand coalition formed by the political parties, of the center-left and the center-right, that had alternated in government until a few months earlier.

  • The empty seats of the ministers of Matteo Renzi's cabinet are seen here before the swearing ceremony at the Quirinale, the presidential palace in Rome.


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