Bursting the Bubble

Italian politics? No hurry, it can’t get worse than this.

12 April 2013 | by

The mess after the ballots

The days after the elections, the 24th and 25th of February respectively, every candidate claimed to be satisfied of their victory. In Italian politics such an attitude is quite common. People sitting in the Parliament for decades can hardly admit a loss. However, in those day’s comments there was a frightening truth – nobody had won and no government was foreseeable. Let’s be clear, Italy does have a government in charge and it is led by Mario Monti. This government however is less popular at home than in the EU, and his hands are tied. After more than a month the scenario is even more unclear and uncertain. Let’s take a step back, to see things clearly. Italy has a perfect bicameral system, with the two chambers: the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate performing identical functions. In February Italians voted with a complex electoral system full-of-issues, the so-called “porcellum” (dirty trick could be an appropriate translation).

Pier Luigi Bersani’s centre-left coalition disappointed every political forecast, obtaining only a few votes more than Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right in both Chambers. This led to a centre-left majority in the Chamber of Deputies (345 out of 630 seats) thanks to a majority premium that goes to the winning coalition. In the senate, where seats are allocated regionally, no majority resulted from the ballots. The last minute alliance of Berlusconi and the Northern-league granted his coalition only 5 seats less than the Centre-left. 54 seats went to the unexpected dominator of the election: the anti-establishment, anti-politic movement of the comedian Grillo, who built ties, with his “tsunami” electoral campaign, between social media’s and squares. Monti’s coalition received only 19 seats, making it impossible for him to hold the balance of power, as its coalition – from both political sides – would not lead to a majority.

graphgraph

Graph retrieved from Fleishman-Hillard’s analysis: http://publicaffairs2point0.eu/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/FH-Perspectives-Italian-general-elections1.pdf

Messing up the mess

Fifty days have passed after the elections; no new government is on the horizon. What happened so far in Rome? Bersani courted the 5 Star Movement (5MS) as an ally for a government, this only obtained the favour of some 5MS’s parliamentarians with the election of new-comers, Mr. Grasso and Ms. Boldrini, at the head of the two chambers. Grillo continued the anti-politics attitude, refusing any compromise with any side. He brought the parliamentarians of his movement with a secret bus, to a secret location, to make sure they would not make any concessions, betraying his rhetoric of transparency. Subsequently, the only alternative left for Bersani would be a coalition with the historical enemy – Berlusconi. The latter asked in exchange the election of a favourable President of the Republic.

If the first consultations revealed the impossibility of any government formation, the second ones, conducted by the current President, Giorgio Napolitano, brought to the establishment of two special Parliamentarian’s Committees, of 10 Saggi. Those ten senior men (the absence of a single woman produced reasonable protests) are expected to work on desperately needed solutions, such as the electoral reform and the economic measures to fuel growth, job creation and consumption. Most likely they will only gain time to the election of the next President, which will take place in the Parliament from the 18th of April. Such elections however could require two weeks considering the parties’ difficulties in reaching compromises. Only a new President would have the constitutional competence to dissolve the Parliament and call for new elections, but this would still not resolve the issues.

By now, you will have realized it is a mess, a slow procession to the stalemate. So what can they do you ask? My perception is that concessions of the leaders would leave room for compromise. The few positive facts of the last 50 days have been the election of new-faces in the two chambers. An unrealistic step-back of Berlusconi, a more constructive attitude from Grillo and a change in the leadership of centre-left, with the young Renzi rising up the ranks, these could be responsible steps in the right direction. Unfortunately, the current tones and acts are more associated with ones of electoral campaigning.

What else happened in Rome in the last 50 days? Well, if it was impossible to find a new Prime Minister for the Italian Republic, in the meantime a more solemn seat was filled: the Pope’s. Quite ironical isn’t it?
A story in the story

The casta in Rome is taking its time, consultations after consultations, meeting after meeting and negotiations after negotiations. Declarations as “We have to hurry up”, “We need to act responsibly” resound every day in every media. Politics has its timetable, true. However such timing is now incompatible with the declining daily reality. The purchasing power of Italian families is at his lowest peak, 4.218 enterprises shut down in 2013, hiring dropped of 5.8 while dismissals of staff increased by 15%. A few days ago the old spouses, Romeo Dionisi and Annamaria Sopranzi and his brother Giuseppe, killed themselves out of the fear of losing dignity due to advancing poverty and job-loss. These people join the sadly long list of suicides for similar causes. The names of these people, instead of the empty politician’s words should resound in Rome. Their shadows should enter the decision-making rooms to dictate the time-schedule and urge responsible resolutions.

What do you think?