Analysis Italy, on the way to new general elections

Pablo Martín de Santa Olalla Saludes is a profesor of International Relations at the Universidad Europea of Madrid.


New general elections have just been called in Italy, once the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, ends the XVII political term. A term which had a bad beginning five years ago, with a political class profoundly divided and without a clear winner in the general elections, since the most voted candidate, Pier Luigi Bersani (Partido Democratico, PD, the main left party in Italy) surpassed in less than a point its main rival the former prime minster Silvio Berlusconi, leader of Forza Italia. Because of that, Bersani did not had enough support among his own ones to bring forward its different candidates to the presidency of the Republic (the outgoing president, Giorgio Napolitano, ended up its mandate in April 2013) and that swept away its possibilities to form a Government. Finally, Napolitano accepted to be reelected, Bersani resigned as secretary general of the PD and the left agreed with the center right that the first minister was the Christian democrat Letta, former minister of former center left governments and nephew of the right hand of Berlusconi (Ganni Letta, his faithful squire in all the governments that the Lombardian political and business man presided).

Thus, the first part of the legislative term was characterized by instability and the constant threat of Berlusconi of making the Government fall, until a part of its political party, led by the formerly successor or Berlusconi (Angelino Alfano), split creating a new party (el Nuovo Centrodestra, ND) and giving the majority necessary to the government of Letta, which will endure until February 2014. Letta would fall before time not because of not having enough votes to govern, but because its party colleague Matteo Renzi, just elected secretary general of the PD, achieved the support of the president Napolitano to become the new first minister (February 2014). Thus, Renzi would inaugurate the stage of more stability of the legislative term, with a government that last more than one thousand days and in which among its main success are the approval of an important labor reform (‘Jobs Act’, December 2014), the easy election of a new president of the Republic (Sergio Mattarela, January 2015) and the approval of a new electoral law (the Italicum, which gave the award of majority to the most voted party).

Nevertheless, Renzi would have to resign before time since he was not able to bring forwards his constitutional reform by which it was eliminated the legislative capacity of one of the two chambers (the Senate): the 59% of Italians voted against it which lead Renzi to immediately present his resign (December 2016), this gave way to the last executive of the political term, the one presided by Paolo Gentioli, who was until that time his Minister of Foreign Affairs. Gentioli would benefit from the majority forged by Renzi (to which it will be added another division in the party of Berlusconi, the ALA of Denis Verdini) and, even though he was not able to pass the most important law of the legislative term (the Ius Soli, by which it was given the Italian nationality to the immigrant children born in transalpine soil), which will consolidate the economic recovery initiated in times of Renzi (Italy has grown in 2017,a 1,6% of the GDP after years of recession) and will manage to conclude the legislative term without any distress.

It was precisely during the government of Gentioli when the current electoral situation was being defined.  To the left, Renzi achieve to be reelected secretary general of the PD after having resign some months ago, but he has to witness how the critical sector of his party (lead by the former communists Bersani and D’Alema) left to conform a new political party (Artículo I-Movimiento Democrático y Progresista, MdP) and finally he launch a strong left list of candidates called Libres e Iguales in which it has been added the other important party of the Italian left (the SEL of Nichi Vendola and Laura Boldrini). To the left, at the same time, the former prime minister Mario Monti discreetly retired from politics to give freedom of movement to his parliamentarians (the ones who have running for election in 2013 under the acronym of Scelta Civica, SC), while to the left it would again come back Silvio Berlusconi, who, despite of being condemn to six years of disqualification to hold a public service position has revitalized the coalition of center right (Forza Italia, Fratelli d’Italia and Lega Nord, now only Lega, once it has forgot its secessionist claims) with a huge triumph in the regional elections hold in Sicily on October 2017.

Nevertheless, the party leading the polls since months ago is the movement Cinque Stelle of Bepe Grillo, in this moment lead by the Napolitano Luigi di Maio, who was in the former legislative term vice-president of the Chamber of Deputies. This rise of the Italian “against classes” party (a formation that also has a lot of transversal) lead Renzi and Berlusconi to pact the electoral law to under which they will run for election next 4th of March 2018: the so called Rosattellum bis, which favors the coalitions against parties that, such as the one of Di Maio, run alone.

Even though there are still two months left until the elections are held, the situation seems favorable to a coalition of center right (officially still not presented as such, but everyone expects to be like this), which moves around 35% of the votes in all the surveys. After them comes the Movement Cinque Stelle, with a 30% of support between Italians, and then the Partido Democratico of a Matteo Renzi which has lost many spheres in the last months (he has lost more than six points since May last year), but which trust in the leadership of the Tuscani politician to recover terrain in the two months ahead.

Once again, Italy finds itself before a new political dilemma in which everything is possible, even though it its known that among the European authorities the favorite option —to consolidate the recovery of a country that has been a constant nightmare— it that it is reissue the pact between Partido Democratico and Forza Italia, which worked, with its cut and thrust, during a substantial part of the legislative term.


Translated by María Maseda

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