Italy, land of miracles, referenda, politics and elections

di Redazione del December 7, 2016

senatoTORONTO - There is a saying that relates to the weather in British Columbia equally applicable to Italian politics: don’t like the weather {political circumstances)? - wait five minutes.

The results of the Referendum were barely counted then the motors revved up for the second lap.

While most people talked about the decisive defeat of the proposal to change the Constitutional arrangements that govern Italy, [out- going] Premier Matteo Renzi and his advisors were looking at the impressive 40% vote garnered by the Si contingent.

If the roughly 60% who voted NO to change was indeed a protest vote, they argued, then the 40% must be a rock-solid expression of support for Matteo Renzi as Leader of the PD and the Government of Italy. 40% is a significant number because the Party that receives that percentage of the popular vote is guaranteed a gov- erning majority in the 630-mem- ber Chamber of Deputies, the equivalent of Canada’s House of Commons.

A snap election at this stage might well secure for Renzi con- trol over his Party, a firm hand in the Chamber and effective leverage in the Senate (now saved from “abolition”) if not outright control.

The stakes are high for him and for Italy. Think of it from a European perspective. Britain is effective- ly leaderless, Theresa May having received the support of her Party to replace David Cameron. She is “committed” to Brexit; her Parliament much less so. The British High Court said no Brexit without Parliamentary approval. She dares not invoke clause 50 to initiate the Brexit. Confused yet?

President Hollande of France, after waiting out the defeat of Sarkozy, an old rival and former President, has just announced he will not seek re-election. And Pre- mier Manuel Valls has jut submit- ted his resignation. Another lame duck country confirmed.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, the mainstay of Germany and Europe, is herself facing a challenging election for her own survival and, some say, that of Europe, in 2017. She will necessarily be distracted.

In the G-8, that leaves only a protectionist Donald Trump in the USA and a dependent Canada to take the lead for Europe’s future. “Friends”, but It is not in their interest.

With Russia’s Putin, Turkey’s Erdogan and a plethora of despots in the Greater Middle East and Af- rica banging on Europe’s doors, so the argument goes, this is not the time to strand Italy with a weak- ened government.

Besides, the Italian Budget needs to be guided through Parliament and approved, otherwise nothing works. Renzi has satisfied the self-imposed promise to re- tire if the Yes side lost. To a point. He also pointed out to the President that to make the resignation effective immediately, in a “fiscal vacuum”, would be the height of irresponsibility. Better to wait the finalization of the Budget… it is the only civically responsible thing to do. President Mattarella agreed.

After that, it would be political- ly irresponsible for Renzi to va- cate the terrain to the advantage of Parties like 5 Stelle and the separatist Lega Nord. He would also be disloyal to his Party, the PD. Look for him to be responsible and loyal – he will ask the President to dissolve Parliament immediately up- on accepting his resignation.

His election platform is ready. With 40% of the public behind him, he can chip away at the 60 % supporters of the No side. The jig- saw puzzle of disparate interests cannot possibly hold together as the electoral campaign unfolds.

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