• Opinion
  • Italy’s Crisis – Between Farce and Tragedy

  • Roberto Musacchio | 30 May 18 | Posted under: Italy , Elections
  • How will Italy’s political crisis end? Will it precipitate imminent new elections? Will there be a government of ‘populists’? Will there be a brief ‘president’s’ government voted on by almost no one?

    It is difficult to say. Not only because the situation is complicated and dangerous but because the protagonists are very rapidly changing their positions.

    In a single day the head of Five Stars went from, on the one hand, demanding the head of state be criminalized for the ‘offence’ of rejecting a minster for having expressed positions critical of the EU to, on the other, proposing to the same president the reopening of a process to form a government. In the meanwhile, the spread and finance are baring their fangs, the TV news is running non-stop coverage, and people are being called to the streets. At a certain point an unfortunate wisecrack surfaced from a German European Commissioner about the Italians whom the markets will instruct how to vote: petrol onto the fire.

    But let us try to stay with the facts. The elections were won by two subjects, which are ‘populist’ in different ways: the League and Five Stars. They represent different projects and social bases as well as different parts of the country. They are against the political system but not against the economic system other than in the sense of generic attacks on the power of banks.

    The parties that have been the pillars of the choices made in sync with the EU and austerity – the PD and Forza Italia – have lost.

    Due to the institutional and political chaos into which Italy has been thrown in the last thirty years – more or less ever since the dissolution of the Italian Communist Party – the interpretation of the electoral result can be confused. In fact, Five Stars stood for election alone while the League was in alliance with Berlusconi.

    In the exhausting negotiations to form a government, Five Stars has proposed a ‘contract’ either with the PD or the League. But not with Berlusconi. The PD has refused by saying that those who won should govern so that it can be demonstrated that they have made promises they cannot keep.

    The League, for its part, has accepted, but with the ‘permission’ of Berlusconi. In the meanwhile it has won some local elections and grown in the opinion polls. The League and Five Stars have come to conclude a ‘contract’ through a procedure that is anomalous as regards institutional rules.

    The contract is a very ugly one. Essentially, it is based on the flat tax and thus speaks to the rich. It is terrible as regards immigrants. There is nothing in it on labour. There are populist winks against the ‘caste’.

    Instead of the crisis of the President of the Republic being based on rejecting unconstitutional elements of the programme like the flat tax or its immigrant policy, it has exploded because of his rejection of the proposed economic minister with an aura of heresy that could annoy the markets.

    It is a wrong and unacceptable position. Many believe, however, that the League would prefer to go to elections to profit from the situation and make a big leap forward. It is therefore thought to be acting on its own. What would the League and Five Stars do in the event of immediate elections? Would they run together?

    In a crisis without precedents, the left for the first time is almost inexistent. The PD, which it is difficult to call left, is divided and hopes to create a front of ‘Europeanists’ against the ‘barbarians’.  It is frankly a suicidal idea that would bring together all those considered responsible for the bad policies of recent years, creating an easy target for the League and Five Stars and conferring significantly more legitimacy on their alliance.

    A part of Liberi e Uguali too has opened to this idea and thus to reconnecting again with the PD.

    Potere al Popolo’s position, and that of the forces of which it is composed, is different. It is clearly aligned against the League-Five Stars accord but has criticized the EU’s meddling and the actions of the President of the Republic. And it has relaunched the idea of an autonomous left against the elites, their policies and those who have supported them as well as against the League and Five Stars.

    However it ends it is certain the Italian and European crises will continue.

    Translation: Eric Canepa

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