A Story about Rain and Other Italian Things

Avigliano

My name is Giuseppe, I am 26 years old. I work in a library. I have a degree in Classical Literature and now I am studying Philosophy. I live in Eboli, a small town in southern Italy.

Before trying to analyse the current  Italian political landscape, allow me to begin with an anecdote about the rain, which came to my mind when thinking about the non-voters at the last elections.

Non-voting: is it about abut the rain?
In Italy, the old generation – especially the old communists – believed that rain on election day was a good sign. And this was not just superstition!
When it rained the electors of the old Christian Democratic Party – people not really interested in politics or elderly people living in the country surrounded by muddy roads – wouldn’t set foot outside their own home. This was in the advantage of the Communist Party.
On Sunday 25 May it didn’t rain. On the contrary, it was rather hot, at least in Italy. However, not many people went to vote.
Just a minority of Europeans has chosen the new Parliament. This is a fact, which should cause an inevitable debate. 57% of Europeans didn’t vote. Why? Was Europe haunted by a hurricane?
These elections were the most important in the history of the European Union. This time it’s different – said the awareness campaign.  In fact, this time it was terribly different. In the last five years the eruption of the economic crisis in the global context had shown the importance to strengthen the EU in order to be able to better deal with all the unpredictable challenges of the future. However, after five years, we are again in a deep crisis.
It is obvious now that the austerity policy – strongly defended by the EPP – has failed. Nevertheless, who won the elections? The same EPP!  Is it possible to predict what would have happened if more people had voted? Maybe not, but I suppose the results would have been different. Unfortunately, the “indifferent people” – as Antonio Gramsci put it – continue to be decisive for the course of history.

The Partito Democratico: is it about 80€?
Before the elections Italy’s political landscape was undecided. The polls indicated a neck and neck between Partito Democratico (PD) and Movimento 5 Stelle. At the end, Matteo Renzi’s PD turned out to be almost twice big then Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement (40% vs 21%). For the PD this is the most important success in its whole history.
One of the last measures of the government included a small ‘present’ of about 80€ in the pay slip of workers with middle and lower incomes.  This fact surely helped Renzi’s party in the final result, but it would be wrong to narrow down his merit to just this aspect. In the last four months in government, Matteo Renzi was able to give the impression of strong determination to deal with the stagnant situation in Italy. No matter that his government team consisted of the same people who were with Berlusconi until only a few months ago. No matter how he became Prime Minister, i.e. without the vote of the electorate. He presented himself as the last hope for Italy. And it seems that many people trust him.

We will win next time…maybe: the downfall of Movimento 5 Stelle
Beppe Grillo’s 5-Star-Movement’s motto for the election campaign was “We will win.” The pools indicated a neck-and-neck race between M5S and PD. The result was a disaster for M5S. Within a year M5S lost around 5% of its following. The election confirmed it as Italy’s second biggest party, but it seems to be at a turning point. The European challenge revealed M5S’s lack of orientation.. With whom will they coalise in the European Parliament? What will be their plans? Nobody knows. This reveals one of the weaknesses of the populist movements – precisely the fourth – that we analysed here.

Berlusconi and the death of Dorian Gray
Last January Silvio Berlusconi appeared on the pages of the Sunday Times more often than before. For the first time he showed the photographers the wrinkles on his face. We can consider this moment as the end of the never-ending youth of a man almost 80 years old. It seems that “the picture of Silvio Berlusconi” is revealing itself little by little. He was brought to court and convicted. He has lost his right to vote and is doing community service in order to avoid house arrest. Nevertheless his party – with his name in the symbol! – got 16% of the votes. A great result if we think that it is the party of a convicted person with the reputation of being a tax evader and even an alleged child molester! However, the European elections in Italy have marked the end of Berlusconi’s twenty years of power and the end of the Italian bipolarity; the end – or almost the end –  of a political period that we used to call “The Second Republic”. Just as Dorian Gray, in the end nobody can escape from his picture.

The weakness of the left-wing parties
Tsipras’ role in the Italian election was supported by the greatest part of the Italian intellectuals. Writers, journalists and artists had shown Tsipras their appreciation and some of them were involved directly in his election campaign. The result was a disappointing 4%. It was due to mainly two reasons:

  • In spite of the backing of great names it was a lousy election campaign.
  • The language of the left-wing Italian parties continues to be unattractive and is not able to engage young people.

We voted for Europe without thinking about Europe
In the election campaign, one thing was missing: Europe. We went to vote thinking about national politics. We went to vote without a clear idea of Europe. And this only in the best case: we must keep in mind that most of us didn’t vote at all. We missed a historic opportunity. The next time it has to be different, that much we can already say now.

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