Is Italy Really at its Fourth Government in Four Years?

Thu, 02/20/2014 - 05:49

We've decided to spare you the details and the political drama of the latest developments in Italian politics so far. However, as it has been confirmed that Italy will soon have a new government, it is time to try to explain what is going on. In particular, how Italy managed to have four governments in four years with the latest one being formed these days with newly appointed Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. In order to give you some context we summarize it in four main steps.

 

2011 - Berlusconi's Last Government

Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister in Italy for nine years in total, resigned on 12 November 2011 in the wake of the Italian debt crisis. He resigned after failing to secure a majority in a crucial vote and after parliament passed a package of painful economic reforms demanded by European partners to restore market confidence in Italy's strained public finances.

2012 - Monti's Technocrat Government 

Following Berlusconi's resignation, with the next election not due until 2013 and  a public debt of more than 120 percent of gross domestic product,  President Giorgio Napolitano invited former European Commissioner Mario Monti to form a technocrat government with the goal of passing painful economic reforms in the months leading to the election. Monti  accepted and governed a technocratic cabinet composed entirely of unelected professionals until December 21 2012,  when he  announced his resignation as Prime Minister, having made a public promise to step down after the passing of the 2012 Budget.

2013 -  Letta's  Grand Coalition Government

The election was held on 24 February 2013. The vote was split in three with the Democratic Party-led centre-left coalition led by Pierluigi Bersani taking a small absolute majority in the lower house but failing to gain a majority in the Senate.  

Two months later, following weeks of political deadlock and after failing to entice Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment Five Stars movement into coalition, Bersani resigned.  On 24 April 2013, Deputy Secretary of the Democratic Party, Enrico Letta, was invited to form a government by President Giorgio Napolitano. 

Letta accepted the task of leading a Grand coalition government, with support from the centre-left Democratic Party, the centre-right Berlusconi's People of Freedom Party, and Mario Monti's centrist Civic Choice. He formed the first government in the history of the Italian Republic which included representatives of all the major candidate-coalitions that had competed in the election. 

The decision to  form a coalition with Berlusconi cost him the support of many in his party. Nevertheless, Berlusconi pulled out of the government after being stripped of his seat in  Parliament  a result of a Senate-ejection vote over his conviction for tax fraud.  

As a consequence, Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano, secretary of  centre-right  The People of Freedom party, and his supporters split from Berlusconi's party, founding the New Centre-Right party and continued to support the Letta's government. 

Governing with such an heterogeneous political coalition proved difficult, to say the least. Growing criticism of the slow pace of Italian economic reform left Letta increasingly isolated. On 14 February 2014, following tensions with his Democratic Party rival Matteo Renzi, Mayor of Florence since 2009 and Secretary of the Democratic Party since 2013, Letta resigned. 

 

2014 - Renzi's  Grand Coalition Take-Two Government 

President Giorgio Napolitano accepted Letta's resignation from the office of Prime Minister  and three days later asked Matteo Renzi  to form a new government.  Renzi is currently holding talks with the leaders of the main Italian political parties, declaring that he wants to form a government that would remain in office until the next scheduled general elections in 2018.

 

THE CURRENT POLITICAL DEBATE 

Currently, the political debate is as heated as ever in Italy. We look at the main doubts and questions some commentators are raising about Renzi's latest appointment.

- Renzi is the country's third unelected Prime Minister in just over two years and some critics are going as far as denouncing a lack of democracy in the country.  While President Napolitano's decision to appoint three unelected government can obviously be criticized from a political point of view, it is important to remember that Italy does not have a presidential system but  is actually a Parliamentary Democracy.  This means that the head of state, currently Napolitano, appoints a prime minister who has a set timescale within which s/he must gain a vote of confidence in Parliament.

- Florence Mayor, Matteo Renzi' s  political rise has been seen as a sign of much-needed generational change by many. He is often referred to as  "il Rottamatore", "the Scrapper", a nickname that refers to his call to scrap the entire Italian political establishment, widely regarded as discredited and  tainted by corruption. However, while Renzi won his party's primary election in 2013, he has never stood in national elections and has now been accused of taking power through the back door and breaking his promise of only seeking office through elections. According to his critics the move smacks of the old-style politics Renzi claims to despise and oppose, while supporters say it was an unpleasant necessity and a bold move for Italy's sake.

- Commentators also question the fact that Renzi will have to govern with the same grand coalition that has already been unable to pass relevant reforms. The question is 'Why would he succeed where Letta failed, considering he will be governing in the same political climate?"

- After winning his party primary election, Renzi  met Berlusconi in a major attempt to strike a deal over a new electoral law. According to critics, the meeting has rehabilitated Berlusconi, putting him again at the centre of the political stage despite his several legal troubles which led to his ejection from Parliament. Moreover, one of Renzi's main spin doctors is Giorgio Gori, a former director of Berlusconi's main television stations. Renzi denies such intrigues and claims that constitutional reforms and a new electoral law cannot be designed without the agreement of all major parties, including Berlusconi's party  which counts on a consistent number of MPs.

 

Many political analysts claim that he represents Italy's last political chance and that his success  is in the country's best interest. We wish Italy good luck! 

 

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