The great electoral race in Italy has begun. Of course, there is still a year and a half ahead, because the legislature should end in March 2023, but Italy certainly does not have a tradition in this sense: indeed, the legislatures that have reached their natural cycle are very few and those that they did it, almost all of them ended with a different government from the one that started it.
The scenario that seems to be on the horizon is that of a clash between two populisms: on the one hand the vulgar, sovereign right wing, which winks at Orbàn and Marine Le Pen; on the other hand, the anti-globalist and advocate of the so-called “happy degrowth”, embodied by Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) and which has now also engulfed the Democratic Party, flattened on the theses of former rivals, who still hold a majority of seats in the current Parliament.
A populism so devoid of identity, that of the M5S, to the point of having been able to pass from a government with Salvini’s Lega to one with the Democratic Party while maintaining the same person as prime minister.
The arrival of Mario Draghi, former president of the ECB as prime minister, has had the effect of bringing together almost all forces – except Fratelli d’Italia and some exiles from the Movimento 5 Stelle who remained faithful to the original ideals of the movement, i.e. none alliance and struggle for the destruction of the party system – in a government of national unity that aims to reach the end of the legislature.
Draghi is also the only one able to get Italy to implement the reforms requested by Brussels and therefore to obtain the entire Nex Generation EU post-pandemic aid package: it is only thanks to his decision-making and his ability not to be influenced by the parties if Italy finally seems able to try to recover some credibility.
The keystone will be the election of the new President of the Republic: Sergio Mattarella will conclude his seven-year term in January 2022 and at this stage he cannot in any way call new elections, but Salvini and the Lega are playing on a double track. On the one hand, they continue to support the government, but on the other hand continue to vote some opposition measures that go in the opposite direction.
The obvious goal is to rebuild an axis to the right and aim to take over Italy immediately after the election of the new President of the Republic. In fact, the current polls show the two right-wing forces together above 40%, a percentage that with the current electoral law would allow the formation of a government.
Salvini’s strategy is simple: to have Mario Draghi elected president of the Republic, a situation that would force Draghi himself, once he takes office, to appoint his replacement as head of the government. The leader of the Lega aims to anticipate and indicate Draghi’s name as soon as it is possible to do so: the numbers for him to be elected president of the Republic are enough and in theory they are the same ones that support the government.
RENZI THE CROUPIER
The rest of the majority, however, is clear about the trap: Draghi president of the Republic, with the current political framework, is only suitable for Salvini. This is why the race for the “right name” has started. Excluding that it may be an exponent of the Democratic Party, too divisive, it will try to mix up the cards.
And the cards want to give them again Senator Matteo Renzi, leader of Italia Viva, who despite his meager 2% of votes, can count 43 parliamentarians, like him who escaped from the Democratic Party in which they had been elected or torn from other parties. A sufficient number to skip the direct election of the new President of the Republic: in the first three votes infact, an absolute majority of the parliamentarians of the two chambers and of the 58 regional representatives is required, ie 510 votes out of 1018 are needed.
Despite some situations that are not always shared, Renzi – who leads one of the few Italian liberal-inspired forces (Italia Viva is a member of Renew Europe in the PdE component and expresses an MEP, Nicola Danti) has always proved to be a skilled strategist. Like the other allies, Renzi wants Draghi to reach the end of his term as premier, which is why he already has in mind the names to spend on Mattarella’s successor. The first is Senator Pierferdinando Casini.
Casini could agree many: he is a Catholic like the current president Mattarella, he comes from the former Christian Democrats, he was president of the Deputies Chamber and took part in both center-left and center-right governments. He has been sitting in Parliament since 1983 despite being only 66 years old and today he represents a small party he founded, but above all he is known for his calmness and diplomacy, qualities necessary for the role of President of the Republic.
Casini could easily be elected at the first vote. But if the operation does not go through or if it encounters obstacles as the vote approaches, Renzi has already prepared the real name capable of putting the center-right in difficulty: Silvio Berlusconi.
The president of Forza Italia is 85 years old and after serving a period of ineligibility, he is currently MEP. Forza Italia is the largest liberal component in the government (in Brussels is part of EPP) and Berlusconi dreams of becoming President of the Republic since he entered politics in 1994. Lega, Forza Italia and Fratelli d’Italia (now in the opposition), have recently renewed the center-right alliance with the aim of presenting themselves in the next political elections with a single list.
But Renzi knows very well that despite this Salvini will never indicate Berlusconi as a substitute for Mattarella, because it is not functional to his goal. For this reason it could be Renzi who put that name into play, forcing the Lega parlamentarians to come out into the openIn any case, it would be a win-win situation that would put Salvini on the corner.
And it could open the doors to the construction of that liberal and libdem axis that Italy would need to stem the rise of double populism. With the permission of the Democratic Party that given the current situation, the hypothesis of a president Berlusconi would be forced to make the best of a bad situation.
- Emanuele Lombardini is our blog editor-in-chief. He is an experienced journalist, a Libdem, Italian and passionate European.
The opinions on this blog are of the authors themselves and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of ELfR.