Friday

23rd Oct 2020

Opinion

Why is Italy in political stalemate?

  • Picasso - the meaning is not obvious at first glance (Photo: Nathan Laurell)

International observers are looking at the Italian political situation with the same sense of wonder one might have when looking at a Picasso.

On the face of it, it does not make sense: how could political parties refuse to co-operate when Italy is at risk of economic disaster?

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The February elections have produced a stalemate: an almost equal split between the centre-left, led by the Democratic Party (PD), the centre-right, led by the People of Freedom (PdL) party and the 5Star Movement (M5S) of Beppe Grillo.

In normal times, the political parties would co-operate to bring the country out of the quagmire, but these are not normal times for Italy.

PD won the majority of the seats in the lower house, but it does not control the senate and further support is needed.

The PD says that it does not intend to ally with the PdL because its leader, Silvio Berlusconi has a bad reputation, even though both parties have jointly supported the technocratic government of Mario Monti for the past 18 months.

At the same time, M5S does not want to enter into a coalition with the PD and such an alliance was never proposed during the recent electoral campaigns.

Why is it so difficult to form a government?

Understanding a Picasso painting requires patience and imagination, to look past one's first impression and to see the meaning behind it.

The three parties are the product of a special historical moment.

They do not have major divergences in terms of policies, but each one is a microcosms of how they would like Italy to be organised.

The historical background is the bipolarism created by the presence of Berlusconi, which pushed anyone who did not agree with his methods toward the centre-left.

As a result, the PD is not a normal political party - it is a container of different groups with different ideologies, priorities and interests.

It is several political parties inside one party.

This is why the PD's current leader, Pierluigi Bersani, comes under fire from within his own ranks when he tries to form coalitions.

It is as if his failure would benefit anti-Bersani factions within the PD itself.

On the other side of the spectrum is the Berlusconi gang, for want of a more polite term.

The PdL is a party whose management is mainly composed by former and current employees of Berlusconi's business empire, politicians with various ideologies and members of civil society, often from right-leaning circles.

For various reasons, PdL members of the parliament put Berlusconi's personal interests before any other political priorities.

How else can you explain two recent public rallies organised by PdL deputies and senators in support of the septuagenerian playboy and convicted fraudster?

One of them took place outside of a tribunal where Berlusconi is under investigation.

As hundreds of companies close each day in Italy and as youth unemployment climbs to 40 percent, the PdL seems to have more important things to do.

For its part, the M5S exists as an opposition movement to the current party system itself.

It is not against PD or PdL policies - it is against what they are and how they operate.

M5S is offering an alternative system - the possibility for average people to participate directly in the political process based on direct representation.

Its supporters and MPs are as diverse a bunch as those of the other parties, but they are united by their discontent wit the status quo.

Just like the PD, it is a set of parties within a party, of states within a state.

It wants to replace the current system with its own model. This is why Grillo is saying that what he really needs is 100 percent of the votes.

The three main parties in Italy have similar policies but vastly different ideas on statehood, on what the Italian third republic should be.

The Italian scenario looks like France at the turning point between the fourth and the fifth Republic in 1958.

At the time, France had a strong leader, General Charles De Gaulle, who took steered it through the transition.

Italy is still looking for its De Gaulle.

Italy now begins to look less like a Picasso and more like the Mona Lisa - she is still smiling, but nobody knows why.

Francesco Giumelli is assistant professor of international relations and European studies at the Metropolitan University in Prague. Davide Maneschi is a PhD fellow at the Aalborg University in Denmark

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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