Italy’s new government and the perpetuation of minority rule

I have written a commentary on Italy’s new government, published today by Al Jazeera. Click here to read it.

See below for a few extracts:

“[The new Prime Minister] Letta undoubtedly knows how to speak to European leaders in good “technocratese” about fiscal restraint and structural reforms. He is soberly pushing for growth measures at EU level and promised that Italian families that are struggling will be helped. Yet, the general feeling outside the circles of political power is that Italians have been cheated once again. For all the hype around the new government, the political agenda is still dictated by Brussels. Nor does this cabinet have any more democratic legitimacy than the previous unelected one.”

[…]

“Despite the political makeover, there is a strong continuity between the new and the previous government. Following Berlusconi’s resignation from premiership in November 2011, the centre-left and centre-right coalitions agreed to support an unelected technocratic government. Monti and his cabinet would take care of the economy. The political parties would work together to implement the necessary institutional reforms to make the political system more stable and responsive to the current environment.

By the time new elections were announced in December 2012, the parliament had yet to approve any institutional reform. MPs also failed to modify an absurd electoral law pushed by Berlusconi in 2005. If the winning coalition tops the polls by a narrow margin, the current system makes it virtually impossible for the winners to secure an absolute majority in parliament. The latter is needed to form an autonomous and stable government. This is exactly what happened in February this year.

It is unlikely that after a year and half of legislative standstill, Berlusconi and the Democrats will be able to work together on a shared agenda of reforms. There is a serious risk that in the next general elections Italians will vote without an electoral law that guarantees a clear winner and a lasting government.”

[…]

“Meanwhile, the 5 Star Movement continues to advance in opinion polls, rallying popular support for a radical overhaul of the current political order. As the old guard keeps on stalling in self-defence, 5 Star Movement’s chances of dealing the final blow to a moribund party system are on the rise.”

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