Monday, December 9, 2013

Matteo Renzi is elected new leader of the Democratic Party

So many things worth writing about have happened in Italy over the last weeks, that my poor neglected blog could never possibly cover them (I blame my final year at uni, it leaves me no free time at all!). Just to mention a few: Berlusconi launched his new/old party Forza Italia, and the party has left the government; the Italian Constitutional Court ruled that the Italian electoral system (see is “unconstitutional” (this comes only 8 years late, considering that we have had the “Porcellum” since 2005); Beppe Grillo organised his third “V-Day” (the V standing for a swear word that I will not repeat here that means “f**k off”- classy, I know) to protest against the whole Italian establishment; and I’m guessing much more that my brain is too tired to recall.
I have decided to take a break to discuss something that, for once, is a) not Berlusconi-related and b) quite encouraging news.
Yesterday, 8th December 2013, the Democratic Party held an open primary to elect its new party leader. There were three contesters: Gianni Cuperlo, Giuseppe Civati and Matteo Renzi. Renzi won with an overwhelmingly big majority (about 67%). 

Matteo Renzi

Among the three, Cuperlo was the only one representing a link with the old left that stood by and watched Berlusconi do his business for the last 20 years, and therefore not necessarily popular at the moment. Civati, on the other hand, while being ideologically more left-wing than winner Renzi, shares some features with him. They both belong to the “thirty-year-old generation”, and they both promise a generational change and a new managing class. Renzi’s triumph is something that had been long anticipated (see, and it’s a clear signal to the whole political class. The 5 Star Movement is still strong, but there are people who still believe in mainstream politics to change things.
Matteo Renzi, mayor of Florence, is only 38 and has been given a once-in-a-lifetime chance, as he himself acknowledged today on his Facebook page, thanking for this opportunity.
Renzi became famous in Italy for being “il rottamatore” (“the scrapper”) for his long standing calls to renew and clean up the Italian political system. Among the people he openly admires, there are Barack Obama and Tony Blair.
Indeed, today the BBC published an article titled “Italy’s Tony Blair?”, as it is clear that Renzi’s leadership will involve a shift to the centre. The obvious consideration is that if you think Tony Blair destroyed the Labour party, you are unlikely to like Renzi either. On the other hand, if you believe that Tony Blair’s Third Way is the right way to go, you might find Renzi a promising leader.
This is a passage from the profile the BBC made of Renzi:

“Mr Renzi presents himself as a break with the past in every way. He exudes a restless energy. He likes to pace the stage in black jeans and a white shirt. He is relaxed and easy - fast and fluent as he speaks without notes, ranging across Italy's many problems, and offering broad-brush solutions. He always seeks to instil a belief that politics can be done differently, that change is possible.
He finished a recent televised debate by saying he would offer something very rare in Italy: "Hope."
"People are weary and disillusioned," he said. "They don't believe anymore. I believe, and that's why I do politics - because I still believe."

I, for once, want to be hopeful. I need to be hopeful, because it’s just getting too heart-breaking not see any light at all for Italy. I’m not, and I have never been, affiliated with the Democratic Party, but even only the fact that now it has a young, clean face makes me want to be, at least a little, optimistic.
Renzi, show us what you can do.