#Elezioni2018 – You need allies, not just votes, to win elections in Italy

The latest electoral contest in Sicily has been widely considered in Italy as a resounding defeat for the Democratic Party, a success for the centre-right forces and, after all, a good result for the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which, anyway, did not succeed in winning its first regional election. If we look at some numbers and details, however, we might get a more nuanced picture

Sicily has been for almost two decades a centre-right stronghold (at the 2001 general election, 61 constituencies out of 61 were won by the coalition supporting Silvio Berlusconi). Local government is granted a number of special powers. Moreover, a multitude of local lists and regional parties make the political landscape quite fluid and peculiar on the island. In 2012, the surge of Grillo’s party and the internal division of the centre-right (split into two different coalitions, while the Union of the Centre, a Christian-democrat party normally loyal to the centre-right and electorally strong in Sicily, changed side) led to the victory of Rosario Crocetta, the candidate of the Democratic Party-led coalition. which, however, was unable to win a majority of seats at the Sicilian Regional Assembly.

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#Elezioni2018 – A potential anti-EU coalition in Italy?

In the current year, many have feared (or hoped for) the rise of anti-EU, anti-establishment or simply radical parties or candidates (which, more than occasionally, turned out to be radical right parties) in countries such as France or the Netherlands. According to some commentators, this would have led, in the long run, to the disgregation of the current ‘liberal’ order, at least in Europe, and to the collapse of the European Union after the Brexit blow in 2016. However, Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen did not succeed and the European project has not been hit further.

I thought, anyway, that many would have turned closer attention to Italy by now, as it seems the most likely potential target for anti-EU forces, but, apparently, it did not happen – wrongly, in my opinion. There are two factors, indeed, that make Italy a target for anti-EU’s’ appetites. First, after two decisions of the Constitutional Court in 2014 and in 2017, and the referendum held in December, Italy now has a substantially PR voting system both for the lower house and the Senate – remember: both have equal powers. This means that coalitions are almost necessary to rule the country. Second, no natural coalition seems likely to win a majority of seats: both a potential centre-left and a potential centre-right coalition look unable to attract more than 30%-40% of votes, while the Five Star Movement rules out any form of alliance with other parties.

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Is Black Mirror already happening?

A couple of days ago I finished watching the third season of Black Mirror on Netflix. I must say that it was pretty good, but, perhaps not as good (and, sometimes, frightening) as the previous seasons. However, as I already experienced with the episodes produced by Channel 4, I sometimes got the sense that what I was watching on my screen was not just a bleak premonition of the near future or, just as many viewers, commentators and even Charlie Brooker itself put it, the logical outcome of the current technological and social developments led to the extreme, but that it was also something that already happened or that is happening right now. Continue reading “Is Black Mirror already happening?”

Could Matteo Renzi leave a legacy as a constitutional reformer?

One of the things which may mark the success or the (at least partial) failure of Matteo Renzi’s cabinet is the constitutional bill which is going to be debated by Italian senators during the next few weeks and very likely voted around mid-October.
Despite some positive figures in recent weeks, there are still many ups and downs as regards Renzi’s record on the economy and social issues. His school reform has just started being implemented and we will see if it will prove itself to be popular or not. His coalition is divided on a bill introducing civil unions while immigration and refugees crisis make the headlines in Italy just as in many other European countries. However, there is an area in which Renzi may in less than a year time reach his objectives and, perhaps positively, mark his government experience: constitutional reform. The new electoral law of the Chamber of Deputies (Italy’s lower house) has already been approved four months ago, and it will come into force in July 2016. I am a bit critical of this law because a) it is majority assuring under any possible circumstance (a thing that is impossible in any major Western country, as far as I know) and b) because I have a preference, for a number of reasons, for single-member constituencies.

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The nationalistic anti-EU drift of the Italian radical left

There is a different view, however, which is starting to emerge within the left – at least in the left opposing Italy’s Democratic Party, which is not a socialist or a social democratic party, although being the largest one in the socialist group in the European Parliament and being a member of the Party of European Socialists. Indeed, the current Italian prime minister and Democratic Party leader, Matteo Renzi, wouldn’t be a member of any socialist or social democratic party under the old Italian party system in the so-called First Republic, as he would probably rather be a leftist Christian democrat.

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Avoid power or die: the sad life of liberals in Europe

Sign displayed before the 2014 EU elections

The results of the latest general elections held in the United Kingdom seem to confirm – in my opinion – a sort of trend which has been occurring in the largest European countries over the last two years: once the liberals get into government, they are eventually wiped out.

In 2013, Mario Monti’s Civic Choice performed under the expectations at the Italian general elections and won an amount of seats which resulted in being irrelevant in the formation of the new cabinet. This and the subsequent collapse of the parliamentary groups led to the extremely poor results at the latest European elections and in opinion polls. Ironically, perhaps, Monti was assisted by David Axelrod, who also has been advising Ed Miliband during the electoral campaign we have just left behind us – and we have all seen the results; Europe is not America, or, maybe, spin doctors’ influence is overrated – I cannot really say, though.

In Germany, at the 2013 federal elections, after four years in coalition with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, the Liberals (which, previously, had been out of government since 1998) suffered a massive loss of votes, coming fifth as a party and winning zero seats – an astounding defeat.

Now, it is the turn of Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats: five years of coalition (yeah, there’s that thing about tuition fees, I know) and, now, 8 mere seats left for them in Westminster.

There are exceptions, of course: in the Netherlands liberal parties did well at the 2012 general elections – but the Netherlands are the stronghold of liberalism in Europe.

Worrying is the fact that this decline occurs at the same time of the rise of populist, extreme and nationalist parties, an event which would strongly need the counterweight of rational policies and anti-nationalism (if not cosmopolitanism). Even more worrying, in my view, is the fact that more than simply electoral defeats, we see whole parties almost wiped out from the scene, making, perhaps, life for liberal ideas and policies even more difficult: they would probably still circulate, but no one would advocate them.