The Italian political crisis

By Roberto Musacchio

Updated on August, 26th


The framework of the elections has now been defined. The three right-wing forces had already developed their alliance a long time ago: contradictory, for sure, but no less effective. Divided over the government Draghi, with Lega (Northern League), and Forza Italia that supported him, while Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) don’t, they rejoined with a change of roles. Fratelli d’Italia, heir force of the historical right, is now hitting the first place in the polls and is the one that guarantees total pro-Atlantic and pro-NATO loyalty, and also the ability to send weapons to Ukraine. Salvini and Berlusconi are proposing the same things, but on them, the accusations of Putinism are more insidious. On the contrary, Forza Italia and League are the continuity with Draghi. And all three blow on the social malaise that is at a very high level.

Missed the agreement between Letta (secretary of the PD, Partito Democratico – Democratic Party) and Calenda (leader of a center formation) the PD, who had already broken the bonds with the main ally of this phase, the Movimento Cinquestelle (Five Stars Movement), remained substantially isolated. Going with him are the former Cinque Stelle led by Minister Luigi Di Maio, liberal liberalist of +Europa, minor parties such as the Socialist one, and the aggregation of Art1 made by Pierluigi Bersani and Massimo D’Alema who escaped from the PD, but that go directly on the list with the PD itself. Among the leading candidates, we have Carlo Cottarelli, the protagonist of spending reviews that have led to large economic cuts. And also, ina technical form, that is, an agreement to use the electoral mechanisms, we have the list of Sinistra Italiana (Italian Left) and Verdi (Green Party).

Then there will be the Cinque Stelle, or what remains of them after the rapid dissipation of their assets. Another formation we will find is the so called “terzo polo” (third pole), formed by the former PD secretary and now leader di Azione (Action), Matteo Renzi, and by Carlo Calenda, already allied with the PD at the European elections and long in negotiations with them before the breakup.

We will also have the Unione Popolare (Popular Union), the pacifist and alternative list, born from the commitment of Luigi De Magistris, former mayor of Naples, ManifestA, a group of parliamentarians out of the Cinque Stelle, Rifondazione Comunista (Communist Refoundation Party), Potere al Popolo (Power to the People), and other political, social and intellectual subjects that are widening seen also the choices made by others and could represent a positive surprise.

Forced by an absurd exclusionary mechanism to collect the crazy amount of 60 thousand authenticated signatures to present themselves, they managed to do so despite the fact that the deadline was in the middle of August. The electoral forecasts are of a wide affirmation of the right, although among the experts, many already speak of possible new scenarios of wide convergence motivated by the crisis. But how did it get to this point?

For the first time in the history of the country, the Italian elections are scheduled for September 25th, and not as usual for the springtime. The crisis precipitated very quickly, and just as quickly the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, dissolved the Chambers, and the Council of Ministers set the date for the elections. This acceleration makes democratic participation more difficult, considering that the formulation andpresentation of the parties’ lists must has been made in the middle of August. On the other hand, for a rule approved in extremis, while almost all parties or political subjects as modified by the many switches in Parliament will be exempted from collecting signatures to submit lists, few others instead had to collect tens of thousands of citizens’ signatures certified formally to present themselves at the general election.

Among these, as already mentioned before, is the Unione Popolare, the list that refers explicitly to theexperience of Nupes in France. The only one that proposes a pacifist, left-wing, ecologist, and social alternative. And this one was among the lists who need signatures, even though several parliamentarians and senators who have contributed to this list, are coming from the Movimento Cinque Stelle, which they left some time ago, and made left opposition to Mario Draghi, giving birth to the Chamber and the Senate fraction (ManifestA) – Potere al Popolo and Rifondazione Comunista. This is an important fact because these compañeras leaving the Cinque Stelle have chosen to represent that Left which, in order not to compromise with ambiguous and moderate forces, had been excluded in the last elections when “on the left” two lists were presented, Potere al Popolo (with inside Rifondazione Comunista) and Leu (Free and Equal), with included Massimo D’Alema and other former members of Partito Democratico and Sinistra Italiana (Si). Leu got some people elected, but almost all of his MPs found themselves supporting the Draghi government while Sinistra Italiana did not.

The Draghi government, supported by a huge majority that went from the PD to the Lega, with the only substantial opposition of Fratelli d’Italia, seemed destined to reach the natural end of the legislature. Instead, the crisis was unexpected and thunderous. Its dynamics leave many questions open about its causes. In fact, the casus belli was a measure not voted by the Movimento Cinque Stelle, something that had already happened with other measures by other members of the majority. This time, instead of movingforward, Draghi chose dramatization. He called for a confidence test in Parliament without any real negotiation on problematic policy points. Movimento Cinque Stelle, Lega Nord, and Forza Italia did not participate in the vote of confidence, and so Draghi resigned. No attempt has been made to form a new government. The Cinque Stelle called for programmatic clarity.  Lega Nord and Forza Italia asked for a government without the Cinque Stelle. But, in the end, the Chambers were dissolved.

The thing that struck the most was that the Partito Democratico had bet its entire policy on the strategic alliance with the Cinque Stelle. By contrast, during the crisis, it accused them of irresponsibility and broke with them. A choice that gives the victory to the right parties, who after having been divided over the Draghi government, have now gathered again. Concerning the Partito Democratico, as mentioned before, here are joining the secessionists of the Cinque Stelle headed by Minister Di Maio, who is already the political head of the formation. In fact, the split that took place before the collapse of the crisis was a significant signal. Furthermore, with the centrist forces who make up the third pole, are now placing several representatives from Forza Italia who did not approve the decision to bring down Draghi’s government. The situation is that some historical exponents of Forza Italia, such as the former minister Giulio Tremonti, are now running with Giorgia Meloni and Fratelli d’Italia.

The political picture that emerges is very shifted to the right. PD and centrist forces are already looking slightly right. Perhaps, by aiming at what has already happened several times, namely a political difficulty from which abroad coalition emerges, better if pro-Draghi again. The rights are united, but still competing with each other. The accusations that have been made are of irresponsibility or “Putinism”. Actually, the two coalitions are both pro-Atlantic and pro-arms to Ukraine. Giorgia Meloni, leader of Fratelli d’Italia, is totally pro-NATO and pro armaments. She has already said that she will follow Draghi’s foreign policy with even more vigor. In fact, precisely a few distinctions in the escalation in the sending of weapons by the Cinque Stelle could have affected the precipitation of the crisis.

Another aspect to keep in mind is the condition of extreme economic and social difficulty in the Country, with soaring inflation, lower incomes, and an economy that is experiencing a structural crisis (unless the profits of multinationals). The Draghi government had floated without using even those measures that, for example, were taken by the Spanish government to help work and tariffs. After all, all the forces of his majority wereliberal with some difference in the Cinque Stelle.

They had represented, actually, a break with the Italian bipolar system that for thirty years has seen the PD going to the elections demanding votes against the enemy of the moment, first Berlusconi, then Salvini, and now Meloni, ending then very often to vote the same bad laws and even make many governments together. This break remained on the surface, leaving the Cinque Stelle to go from not joining in first with the right, then with the Pp, then with both, and, finally, being out of the games. The best thing they have done, surprisingly during the time they were in the government with the League, is the citizenship income (“reddito di cittadinanza”). Very bad were the security decrees, done again with the League but not repealed bysuccessive governments, and the cut of parliamentarians. That means that now we vote for a House and a Senate that are much smaller, using a bad electoral law, yet another made to chase the majority. The PD speaks about the risk of leaving the victory to the right. Something real. But we can’t forget that it ruled withmost of these right-wing parties and that he broke with the Cinque Stelle. And, above all, for thirty years it has made choices that have affected the popular classes, sowing deep displeasure among them. It is no coincidence that voter surveys say that the PD is more voted by the upper middle classes and the Cinque Stelle among those most in difficulty. Abstention is close to 50%.

In this situation comes Unione Popolare, a list that proposes a fight on two fronts: against the right but also against the Macronism of the PD. De Magistris, Rifondazione Comunista, and many others insisted a lot that the Cinque Stelle, the Sinistra Italiana, and the Verdi need to converge in a third-pole alliance instead of going alone (the Cinque Stelle), or with the PD, Sinistra Italiana, and Verdi. A convergence on fundamental issues such as peace, the minimum wage, the income of citizenship, the defense of the Constitution, and the relaunch of the public.

Unfortunately, as said at the beginning, this will not happen.

Nevertheless, the Unione Popolare will be in the field because, as we have seen in France, an alternativeproposal is needed. The economic, health care, war, and climate crisis are now adding up, and the old policies and the oldruling classes are totally irresponsible.

We need an alternative for Italy and Europe.



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