The Italian Mind

Reflections from the Boot

Archive for the tag “Italian elections”

The King is Dead. Long Live the King!

Giorgio Napolitano has been elected the 12th President of the Italian Republic.
It is the first time a President is elected for the second term.

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Friendly Fire, Isn’t

Bersani was unable to form a Government or to keep its party united


I have received several e-mails over the last weeks asking me to comment on the current situation in Italy, of which some specifically requiring to provide my point of view.
Readers who follow me know I don’t like to follow and comment on events as they happen. I always wait a little to understand how things may unfold. Such a prudent approach is most required when Italian politics is at stake.
Very briefly, let me recap the events of the last 60 days or so.

Italy has celebrated its general elections on 24–25 February 2013. The Centre-left coalition led by Pierluigi Bersani slightly prevailed on Berlusconi-led Centre-right coalition. However, it was the Five-star Movement (M5S) inspired by former comedian Beppe Grillo which has taken the lion’s share with its 25% or so of votes. Even with the majority bonus, Bersani has been unable to form a government so far, given the staunch opposition of Berlusconi’s and – above all – Grillo’s coalitions.
On the top of that, the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano has come at the end of his 7-year mandate and the political game is now being played at this table, as in Italy it is the Parliament in joint session that elects the President (election explained @ Wikipedia). No quorum will be reached, however, as long as the several political positions have not been reconciled.
Even strong candidates have not passed the ballot test, among whom Franco Marini (Former Speaker of the Senate), and the economist and two-time Prime Minister Romano Prodi. And it is precisely Prodi’s rejection by the hand of 101 “hawks” in the Democratic Party that led Bersani and Bindi (DP’s Secretary and President, respectively) to resign yesterday.

The real problem is – as many point out – that the Italian (supposed) leaders have been unable to form a Government so far, and they are showing no willingness to vote for a presidential candidate who offers little or no guarantees, nor what we may call a suitable “return on investment”, so to speak.
The major point the M5S makes has been raising since the electoral campaign begun is that the current generation of politicians has been overcome by events, and “must go home”. The current standstill on the presidential vote adds to that, and Grillo said yesterday that the last elections have already “led to the demise of 5 parties”.

The life of ordinary citizens in Italy is heavily impacted by the economic crisis and this not new. Resentment is growing, however, as people can feel and observe the incapacity of parties to find a common position for the good of the Nation, instead of their self-interest. Media reports and surveys suggest the level of confidence enjoyed by political representatives has reached an all time low, and citizens are tired of inability in a country where fiscal pressure reached 43% and 63% for individual employees and businesses, respectively. For those who don’t know, Italian National Police has not had a Chief for the last thirty days. Prefect Antonio Manganelli – who died from cancer on March, 20th – has not been replaced yet, with the Deputy Chief acting on his behalf since then. Unofficial reports say a government should be formed before a new Chief is appointed.

There is a point, however, no one dares to challenge. All authors, journalists, commentators concur that a similar standstill is unprecedented in the history of the Italian Republic. In fact, there are examples of presidential elections in the past that required “some time”, to say the least. In 1971, President Leone was elected after 23 ballots, but in no case Italy has – at the same time – been without a more or less strong majority in the Parliament, groped about the election of its President, apparently without a sound Government in office, and in the middle of an economic crisis that still bites.

What in your opinion are the weak points Italy is showing?
What is your solution to the Italian standstill?
Who is your favourite Presidential Candidate and Prime Minister?

Comment or take the poll!

The Don’t-Wanna-Be Candidate

In preparation for the next election round, the Italian political scenario is getting more and more flustered. Leadership-building efforts, however, are far to be finalised. Political parties and their leaders are testing public confidence and assessing how voters may react to this or that alliance. A few points are clear so far: the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and the centre-right People of Liberty (PdL) seem unwilling to form alliances. With PD at 26% in polls, the PdL is experiencing a sharp fall in prospective votes, which is down to below 20%. Silvio Berlusconi has not yet revealed whether he will run as a candidate and party leader or not but his return may well have consequences for Italy as a whole. Moreover, internal fights between doves and hawks are further undermining the Party’s credibility.

From left: Alemanno, La Russa, Gasparri

Colonels without a General‘ is the title of an article appeared recently on the digital version of one of the most prominent Italian magazines, l’Espresso. It refers to the portion of PdL leadership who feels the Party is no longer up to its tasks. Mainly composed of ex-National Alliance members – the right party that merged into Berlusconi’s Forza Italia when PdL was established – this movement will likely leave the party to form a new one. Together with the Mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno, Ignazio La Russa, Giorgia Meloni, and Maurizio Gasparri – all Ministers during previous Berlusconi’s governments – are willing to re-establish a modern version of the ‘Italian Social Movement–National Right’ Party, originally founded by post-fascist politician Giorgio Almirante, who – among other things – was the political mentor of Gianfranco Fini, who replaced him at the helm of the National Alliance Party. Someone said this is a modern version of famous Ceasar’s phrase ‘Quoque tu Brute?

From left: Bersani, Renzi, Vendola

On the other (political) hand, PD’s leader Pier Luigi Bersani seems unable to embody and represent the many flavours of centre- and far-left movements, let alone to solve the ‘Renzi’ issue.
In its quest for parliamentary seats, the PD is increasingly closer to the ‘Left, Ecology and Freedom‘ (SEL) movement, a recently established Party that may account for 7-8% of votes. SEL’s leader Nichi Vendola, currently the governor of Puglia region – has opposed Mario Monti’s government initiatives on several occasions. He is also a strong supporter of neoliberal issues such as civil and labour rights, especially those concerning radical trade unions and LGBT issues (he himself is openly homosexual and on many occasions reaffirmed his intention to get married in Italy).
Matteo Renzi, one among the most promising politicians in Italy and currently the Mayor of Florence, is an advocate of primary elections. Thanks to his staunch opposition to Bersani’s internal leadership, Renzi has earned the appellation of ‘scrapper‘ and will confront Bersani during the Party primaries, even if no one knows when and on what rules they will be celebrated. Strangely, but probably thanks to his innate communication skills, he also gained consensus among centre-right voters. Centre-right parties and movements, however, show less care of the issue than they should, convinced as they are that the political elimination of Renzi will arrive soon by hand of his own party’s hawks.

The third side of the coin is represented by a large pool of centre movements, actually larger than in the recent past. This is the richest ‘voting pot’ so far, as it includes disillusioned voters from both the above parties, undecided voters, and traditional centre parties voters. Will Pierferdinando Casini, leader of the Christian Democratic Union, Gianfranco Fini, leader of ‘Future and Freedom for Italy‘ – a movement born after the harsh separation between Fini and Berlusconi – and Francesco Rutelli, a former representative of the Italian Radicals and later of centre-left movement Alliance for Italy, succeed in convincing all the potential voters to trust them?
Together with Renzi, they are strong supporters of Monti’s Agenda, an ambitious State reform programme Mr. Monti’s technocrat government has started just after it came into office.

Monti: looking over the horizon

But no matter how you change the order of factors, the percentages of votes each of these actors can obtain will never be enough to form a stable government. Hence, the find-an-ally factor.
The same applies to Grillo’s Five Stars Movement, except that he seeks no allies, either before or after elections.

No significant and effective leader seems to emerge from this picture.So, Mr. Monti, you are the favourite candidate to become Prime Minister, again. Were you aware of that?

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