Interview. A post-mortem on the elections with left-wing party leader Viola Carofalo: “Where people knew us, they rewarded us. And where we don’t have a stable presence, the mass media didn’t help us to make ourselves known to the public.”

Viola Carofalo: ‘Watch out, M5S votes are only temporary’

“We expected a bit more,” admits Viola Carofalo, leader of the left-wing Italian political party Potere al Popolo (Pap). “Surveys had us over 2 percent of the vote, but it went well.” After an election campaign organized in just four months, Pap won 1.3% of the vote in national elections March 4.

What have you learned from your analysis of the election?

Given the landslide of votes drawn by the 5 Star Movement [M5S], even in parts of the population close to us — such as the young — the wider picture isn’t bad at all. For example, we had great results in polling stations close to areas where we campaigned in Naples — where the M5S obtained over 50 percent. We obtained 2.96 percent throughout the municipality, but Chiara Capretti got to 3.69 percent in the historic center’s polling station. We had 6.21 percent in the Porto district, 5.7 percent in the Avvocata district, 5.81 percent San Giuseppe, 4.61 percent in Bagnoli, 4.39 percent in Montecalvario.

We’ve done very well in working-class districts, not so well in middle class districts such as Chiaia and Posillipo. Still, we got over 4 percent in Vomero and Arenella, where our candidate was historian Giuseppe Aragno. Where people knew us, they rewarded us. And where we don’t have a stable presence, the mass media didn’t help us to make ourselves known to the public.

How did the election go beyond Naples?

It went really well in Livorno and Florence, where we got more than 3 percent. We had just under 3 percent in Bologna, and some 2 percent in Rome. In general, we fared better in big urban areas, where there is a wealth of activists. We struggle in smaller towns, where we should have spent on leaflets and posters — but we just didn’t have the funds to.

But that said, we are not interested in political propaganda, we aim to really start up the grassroots. That’s the route we’d like to go down in the future.

Many interpret the M5S victory in the South as renewed dependency culture, pushing for yet more social security.

I was in a debate with other parties on Friday. I told the PD [Democratic Party] representative they don’t need to resort to political analysts to understand the collapse of traditional center-left and center-right political parties — they just need to walk into a hospital’s ER. In the South, voters used the M5S to tear down everything: even if Luigi Di Maio is institutionalizing the Movement, voters think they’re the same movement of the Vaffa Day [“Fuck Off Day”]. They didn’t vote for them because they liked their electoral programme — but because they were angry. It wasn’t much of a political field choice as a reaction to their common perception. Pap wasn’t able to appeal to this part of the electorate, to explain we had a structured political pitch. Many people told us they would have liked to vote for us, but the M5S really had the chance of kicking everybody else out of parliament.

But watch out, because that tells us that M5S votes are only temporary, and they’ll be up for grabs.

The results show Italy is now torn into two, with the Lega winning the North. Is it possible to reunite the country onto a shared agenda?

The economic crisis started in 2007 was a massacre for the South, just after the area had undergone yet another massacre. Whereas in the North, the crisis was a shock: the bankruptcy of so many small enterprises triggered the rise in the number of people forced to take on lower-paid jobs, farther away from home and with fewer rights. The impact was weaker compared to the South, but they’re just as angry.

Jobs are the key to build a shared path for the two Italys. After forgetting issues such as social equality and anti-racism, the institutional left doesn’t have much to offer. We need to start from scratch, from communities — that way political conscience could also be born again.

There will be local elections in the spring and the European election in 2019. What is Pap going to do?

Our local groups who will choose to run for local elections will do so, using the methods we agreed on for the general election.

As for the European election, we will keep looking at what happens in the Left. We didn’t take part in the meeting between Varoufakis, Hamon and Naples mayor Luigi de Magistris. Instead, we did host Mélenchon in the former mental hospital here in Naples. We’ll make a decision when things are clearer.

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