Monday, February 17, 2014

Renzi to form a new government following Letta’s resignation

Matteo Renzi, the young new leader of the Democratic Party, has today been given the task of forming a new government by President Napolitano, following resignation of PM Enrico Letta.

Enrico Letta and Matteo Renzi

Letta was in fact forced to resign because he lost a confidence vote with was held internally to his party, after Renzi presented a motion against him. This move has been very harshly criticised, because Renzi had, so far, always claimed that he was no threat to Letta’s grand coalition. Commentators in Italy are continuously referring, with just a hint of irony, to a hashtag Renzi launched after he was elected leader, “enricostaisereno”, (Enrico be serene) which was supposed to mean that he would support the government.
Renzi himself has admitted that his reputation is at stake here. If he doesn’t succeed in putting together a majority which will deliver the reforms he promised, he will probably crash and burn very quickly.
The question is: why did Renzi suddenly decide that Enrico couldn’t be serene any longer?
Ultimately, in my view, because Enrico and his unlikely grand coalition continued to look like they would never actually do anything, apart from trying to survive as long as possible to avoid an election.
Since Renzi was elected leader, he has been pushing for a lot of very radical reforms, including a new electoral law and a reshaping of the Senate’s powers (which is currently just as powerful as the lower Chamber, only case of perfect bicameralism in Europe apart from Romania). Too bad that nobody would agree to discuss these reforms with Renzi. Well, nobody apart from Silvio Berlusconi. Currently, the only draft for an electoral reform was agreed by Renzi and Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, despite the fact that Berlusconi was voted out of the Senate and was sentenced for tax fraud with a final verdict. But he is still the leader of his party, and, even more appallingly, his party is still quoted around 20% in opinion polls. On top of that, the electoral system they drafted is nothing but a slightly altered version of the Porcellum, our current electoral system which has been ruled as “unconstitutional” by the Constitutional Court (see http://italianfactsrd.blogspot.it/2013/04/italian-electoral-system-how-porcellum.html)- the new system would still entail a plurality bonus and closed lists, so not much an improvement.
But if Renzi wanted to push any further for reform, considering that even the anti-establishment Five Star Movement refuses to debate any issues with him, all he could do was seek a prime ministerial mandate.
The, let’s say “annoying”, thing is that Renzi is the third Italian PM in a row who was not elected. First there was the technocratic Monti, then the grand-coalition-maker Letta, and now Renzi. But since our possibilities to go to the polls are completely impaired for now, since our electoral system is unconstitutional and nobody would vote for a new one, Renzi didn’t have much of a choice.
A classmate of mine once told me: “Don’t take offence to this, but when I look at Italian governments I feel like I'm looking at fashion shows: ‘And the government for the fall/winter collection is…’ You just change them so quickly!”.
The only objection I had was that it is not actually us changing them: the bad thing is that they keep shuffling around in between elections.

I can only say: good luck, Renzi. And above all, good luck Italy.