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Italy: Impossible to Govern?

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Giovanni LoPiccolo

Holding a national election on March 4th, the Republic of Italy still does not have a government. Currently being led by Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni of the Democratic Party, the election failed to yield any party to reach the 40% threshold necessary to form a government. This is the same land that once was home to a Republic and Empire which stood for 500 plus years, so what’s happening?

Since the end of World War II, Italy has had over sixty governments. That’s just not healthy. No government has had the time to properly settle and let its programs take effect, and give substantial results. The closest to that happening was actually from the currently leading party; Partito Democratico, Democratic Party, which its programs have been helping the economy recover slowly.

The biggest parties in Italy are the following:

  • 5 Stelle – Five Star Movement: Populist party with no allegiances to a specific side of the political spectrum, second place in March 4th election. Led by Luigi Di Maio. (Mainly compose of left-wing/progressive candidates and politicians).
  • Lega Nord – Northern League (or the League as its been called recently): Right wing party led by Matteo Salvini, and garnered the most votes of any party in the March 4th election, roughly 37%.
  • Forza Italia – Go Italy: Center-right wing party led by former Prime Minister, and tax fraud convict, Silvio Berlusconi.
  • Partito Democratico (PD)- Democratic Party: Once led by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, a center-left party (they resemble corporate/establishment Democrats here in the US).

This election was one filled with pure anger at the establishment system in Italy, both at Berlusconi’s party and the PD. Over the past few years, due to European Union mandates, Italy has seen an enormous influx of migrants from Northern Africa, and it has become the most contentious issue. Mix that with poverty and unemployment in the southern regions of the country, resentment towards unproductive politicians, and decades of political stalemate, it gives us an equally displeasing result.

5 Star doesn’t want to make a coalition government with other parties to form a government, nor does PD. Berlusconi has a coalition with the League, but it isn’t enough to have a majority. So, if the Italians want a functioning government, 5 Star would have to make a coalition with either the League or PD. Now, the League has had its instances of racism, so the populist 5 Star shouldn’t really make a deal with them. The PD claims that the 5 Star is not suitable to lead, yet they are so close to governing. It’s a big mess, and makes one wonder how could they fix this.

This is possibly one of the biggest downsides to a multi-party system government. You have too many bickering ideologies and people who think they are right and their method is what will lead to a prosperous government. As we’ve seen in Germany, it took Chancellor Angela Merkel six months to form a coalition to begin governing. Yes, in the US, our two parties are corrupt and shut out a lot of differing voices, but at least we have a government that can easily be replaced if it isn’t working out well (every four years).

If the Italian parties can’t form a coalition, one of the last solutions is to call for another election. That would most likely split the vote even more and cause people not to vote out of sheer anger with the system. What can be done?

Italy is known for corruption, sadly enough, and many of the politicians who are corrupt blame the problems on the EU. That includes Brussels (the EU capital) and Germany (since Germany has the strongest economy in Europe and basically is its de facto leader in the bloc). But, maybe, the EU should be making more decisions for Italy. The European Union leadership is not flawless in any regard, they need to look at each member state differently and place regulations and mandates according to their current situation. Perhaps encourage neighboring nations to take in more refugees, instead of having Italy take on the most.

We suddenly run into the argument that “Well, Italy is a sovereign nation and shouldn’t give up its sovereignty.” Yes, it shouldn’t. However, let’s not forget that for the past sixty years that country has not shown any significant progress, is drowning in debt (132% of its GDP, according to Eurostat), and is saddled with corruption. The idea of the European Union was to form a community based on progress through teamwork and enfranchising all nations of Europe, and that comes with a cost. Being a part of a community means looking out for one another, and that goes for a continental community as well.

 

We know that with every issue there isn’t just one reason to why it happened in the first place. Letting Europe make more decisions for Italy isn’t going to magically give it a functioning government. As mentioned above, the PD’s programs and policies have been leading to the economy growing, slowly but surely. The debt is still climbing, being the second most indebted country in Europe, after Greece.

gdp

Multi-party systems are better for democracies, they give us more choices, but the proportional system currently being used in Italy isn’t working. Nobody is willing to work together because of their preconceived notions of one another (the PD and 5 Star). Like in the US, we’ve run into the issue of people thinking that this way is the only way. 5 Star will need the PD if it wants to create a better Italy, they’re the closest parties on the political spectrum. Like here in the US, our Democratic Party is broken into two wings, yet when standing together can do some pretty good things. Things like; passing the Affordable Care Act in 2010, preventing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, enacting the Dodd-Frank banking regulations after the Great Recession, and so forth. These are the small building blocks we need to make it even better. Single-payer and a progressive taxation system could come next, once Trump is gone.

The point is 5 Star is going to have to work with PD if it wants to begin laying groundwork for its agenda. The PD’s slow recovery programs and 5 Star’s progressive plans can yield good results for the Italian people. Patience is key. You don’t see Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren demanding the Democratic Party follow their every word, no, they still spread their messages of being progressive yet also work with the tools they have in front of them.

 

Sources:
Graph: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-43247500

 

 

 

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