Italy in the 21st Century Part 3

Italy in the 21st Century 2

Beppe Grillo

The refusal of the M5S made Bersani’s attempt to form the new government vain, while even in the first votes for the election of the President of the Republic the candidates of the PD (Marini and Prodi) did not find the necessary majority for the internal divisions of the party that had designated them. Only at the sixth vote did the main parties agree on the name of Napolitano who, for the first time in the history of the Republic, obtained a second mandate. Re-elected by a very large majority, he immediately made it clear that he wanted to remain in office only for the time necessary to launch the most urgent reforms, including institutional ones. Following these developments, Bersani resigned as secretary of the PD and Napolitano commissioned Enrico Letta (exponent of the moderate wing of the PD) to form a new coalition government, with ministers of the PD, of the PDL,

According to, the Mediaset trial ended in August 2013, with the definitive conviction of Berlusconi in the Supreme Court for tax fraud resulting in the ineligibility, the incandidablity and, finally, the forfeiture of Berlusconi as senator (Oct. 2013), while the Court of Milan appeal sentenced him to a two-year ban from public office. Berlusconi then decided to leave the government majority, to dissolve the PdL and to reconstitute Forza Italia again (Nov. 2013): the moderate part of the PdL did not join FI and founded the Nuovo center-right (NCD), remaining in the government majority while FI passed to the opposition. In the following months, the Letta government’s attempts to get the country out of the crisis continued, approving new spending cuts and introducing a series of privatizations (Jan.

In January 2014 the mayor of Florence Matteo Renzi, new secretary of the PD (he was elected with the usual primary system in December 2013) – known as the scrapper due to his opposition to his party’s old politics -, casually overcoming the traditional conflicts, he made the so-called Pact with Berlusconi del Nazareno (from the name of the headquarters of the PD): the agreement provided for a series of constitutional reforms, the transformation of the Senate into the Chamber of autonomies without direct election of the senators (reserving the power to legislate only for the Chamber of Deputies) and the reform of electoral law. A brilliant, direct and effective communicator, alien to the positions of the traditional left, Renzi was very critical of the Letta executive, urged for greater dynamism on the issues of reforms, starting with the electoral one.

Matteo Renzi

Renzi obtained from Napolitano the task of forming a new government, which he swore on February 22, 2014. It was supported, as well as by the PD, by the NCD (Alfano was confirmed as Minister of the Interior), by the UdC and by Civic Choice. He immediately presented a package of measures that included tax cuts (with a consequent increase of 80 euros in paychecks for all employees and similar to employees who received less than 1500 euros a month), a reform of the labor market, the abolition provinces, as well as a series of partial privatizations. Renzi’s dynamism and the first interventions of his government raised many hopes, confirmed by the European elections of May 2014, in which the PD obtained 40.8% of the votes, a result never achieved by a leftist party.

In December 2014, the labor reform (Jobs act) was definitively approved, making the system of hiring and dismissals more mobile. The bill had been criticized within the PD, as well as by the trade unions. For 2015, two other important political challenges were expected: the election of a new President of the Republic (in the face of Napolitano’s announced decision to resign at the beginning of the year) and the approval of the electoral reform (Italicum), which provided for the reintroduction of the proportional system on a national basis with thresholds and a ballot between the two most voted parties. Renzi skilfully succeeded in imposing his candidate, Sergio Mattarella, a constitutional and political judge of Christian Democratic origin who was proposed and immediately elected on the fourth ballot on January 31, 2015.

However, many nodes remained open. If the electoral reform (limited to the Chamber of Deputies only) was definitively approved in May 2015 despite the opposition of a part of the same PD and Forza Italia, which had put an end to the Nazarene Pact after the unwelcome election of Mattarella, the ‘ iter of the Senate reform proceeded slowly. In a context that saw the emergence of timid signs of economic recovery, strong tensions were manifesting among the political forces in the face of the problem of illegal immigrants who continued to disembark on the Italian coasts and on the management criteria of a reception problem that did not he was only Italian. Meanwhile, a further surge had been the revelations of numerous episodes of corruption and malfeasance spread throughout Italy and in particular, due to their widespread coverage, in the administration of the capital. The result was an even more marked disaffection for politics which was measured in the widespread abstention during the partial administrative in spring 2015. An electoral round that highlighted the unexpected difficulties of the PD – crossed by many internal divisions – which lost some of its traditional cornerstones, such as Venice, Arezzo and the Liguria region. A challenge then opened up between the new dynamism characterized by recurrent racist pronouncements of the League, now led by Matteo Salvini, and Forza Italia for the conquest of hegemony on the center-right. No less uncertain was the international situation with the hypothesis of Greece’s exit from the euro, a threat to the stability of the European Union and to other countries with high public debt such as Italy.

Italy in the 21st Century 2