On Sunday, Italian voters delivered a shock to Europe not felt since the UK’s Brexit vote in June 2016. Two populist parties came out on top: The NATO- and EU-skeptic Five-Star Movement took home over 32 percent, of the vote while the right-wing Lega party garnered a surprising 17 percent. The fact that both parties have called for better relations with Russia led immediately to the seemingly inevitable accusation that it was the Kremlin, not Italian voters, who was ultimately responsible for the outcome.
Former US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power tweeted: “Italy’s joins long list of elections influenced by Russia…. The question is: what are our democracies going to do about it? Will voters repudiate candidates who seek to benefit from Russian interference?” The UK’s Guardian asked, “Will Putin benefit from Italian populist parties’ Kremlin leanings?” and fretted that the “two populist parties that won big electoral upsets in Italy’s national electionhave close ideological ties to the Kremlin and could shift foreign policy in Italy in favor of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.”