Last week, a “jus soli”—meaning “right of the soil,” commonly referring to birthright citizenship—bill emerged on the agenda of the Italian Senate. Such a bill, should it pass, would allow all children born to foreign, non-EU parents who have have a valid residence permit for at least five years in Italy and can pass an Italian language test to become citizens. The law already passed in the Chamber of Deputies (the lower chamber) and has been sitting in the Senate for over a year. There are Senators pushing for a vote on citizenship reform by the end of March in the upcoming plenary session. MPs in the Senate were unable to reach any compromise while the legislative proposal was in the Constitutional Affairs Committee, and therefore want to bring it to a vote. Those in favor of the reform are the MPs from the PD, the Movimento Progressisti Democratici, the centrists and the Italian left. They believe they have the numbers to pass the bill regardless of the number of undecided voters and 5-Star voters who may abstain from voting (which, in the Senate, equates to a “no” vote). Read more
The immediate future is uncertain for Italy’s Democratic Party. Matteo Renzi formally stepped down as head of the party Sunday, February 19. This decision comes as a consequence of Renzi’s weakening power, starting with the Italian public’s rejection of his proposals in the recent Constitutional Reform referendum. Following the results of the referendum, Renzi resigned as Prime Minister. His defeat strengthened the minority within the PD and pressure on him mounted until he stepped down this week, opening the door to a party leadership battle, which may exacerbate divides within the PD. The party, while enjoying its current parliamentary control in the lower chamber, is increasingly vulnerable to the rising 5-Star Movement. With the next General Election taking place by 2018 at the latest, the PD cannot afford a party schism. Read more
Yesterday afternoon, Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri explained her actions in the Ligresti’s case to the parliament. She stated that Giulia Ligresti was moved from jail to house arrest after a decision by a Turin judge and not because of her intervention. She added that her only regret was letting her feelings prevail. After her speech, the PDL, the PD and Civic Choice confirmed their confidence in the Minister. Canciellieri was criticized by the Five Star Movement, the Northern League and SEL, which repeated their call for her resignation. Since the parties of the governing coalition expressed their support for the Minister, it is unlikely that the parliament will have a formal vote of confidence as requested by M5S.
Meanwhile, the Senate set the date for deliberation on Silvio Berlusconi’s relinquishment of his seat. The vote will be on November 27th. Berlusconi commented: “President Napolitano still has enough time to grant me a pardon.” At the same time, Vice Prime Minister Angelino Alfano said that the PDL has overcome its divisions: “The party is cohesive.” Alfano added that Berlusconi confirmed his support for Enrico Letta’s administration.
Italian politics in the last few days has become focused on Anna Maria Cancellieri, the Justice Minister. She has been criticized for granting Giulia Ligresti’s transfer from jail to house arrest. Giulia’s father, Salvatore Ligresti, is an entrepreneur who used to be one of the richest men in Italy. But recently, his companies went bankrupt and his family was charged with accounting fraud. On July 17th Salvatore and his children (including Giulia) were arrested. After one month in jail Giulia had substantially lost weight and doctors recommended moving her to house arrest. Minister Cancellieri intervened with the prison’s supervisors and Giulia Ligresti left the jail at the end of August. The media reported the case just a few days ago and political parties expressed different opinions on the Minister’s actions. The Five Star Movement requested Cancellieri’s resignation and will likely present a no confidence vote against her. The PD stated that the Minister must clarify her actions to parliament. The PDL is defending her. Cancellieri said that she will meet with parliament tomorrow, but that she does not regret her intervention in Giulia Ligresti’s favor. “Ministers must observe laws but they also have the right to be human beings,” she added. At the moment Cancellieri can count on Enrico Letta’s support. The Prime Minister does not want Cancellieri to resign, but he will have to face discord within his party. One block of the Democratic Party is convinced that Cancellieri should leave office.
The PDL’s opinion on Cancellieri’s case is unanimous, though the party has not yet overcome its divisions. This morning Angelino Alfano criticized the extremist members of the party and asked that the next candidate for Prime Minister be chosen through primary elections.
Discussion over the Regulation Committee’s decision to hold an open vote on Silvio Berlusconi’s case is getting heated. The majority of PDL members claimed that the decision is undemocratic. Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi said that the political debate should focus on more important matters. And PD leader Guglielmo Epifani said that “the government cannot be held hostage by Berlusconi’s case.” Berlusconi’s first reaction was to cancel the meeting he had planned with Angelino Alfano and the other PDL Ministers and to surround himself with his most loyal supporters. Then, this afternoon, he declared that “The game is not over yet!” and accused the left of “scoring a goal against itself.” However, it is still not clear if Berlusconi will decide to withdraw support from the government. According to Il Sole 24 Ore, it is likely that he will try to provoke a political crisis during parliamentary deliberation on the Stability Law. But key PDL member Fabrizio Cicchitto publicly said that Berlusconi should maintain his support for Enrico Letta’s administration. As reported by La Stampa, Alfano would also like to avoid a government collapse because he is convinced that a new election would be won by Matteo Renzi.
This afternoon the Regulation Committee decreed that the Senate will use an open vote on Silvio Berlusconi’s relinquishment of his seat. The PDL reacted with anger. PDL group leader Renato Schifani commented: “This decision will have consequences” and PDL member Roberto Formigoni claimed: “The Constitution has been overturned.”
The Committee’s decision was expected yesterday, but it was impossible for members of the panel to reach an agreement. PDL members asked to postpone the decision, while the President of the Senate Pietro Grasso (who is also the chairperson of the Regulation Committee) pushed for deliberating quickly. The panel re-started its work this morning and after noon the final decision was made.
The tension within parties was also increased by the fact that yesterday the Senate set the agenda for the next four weeks and the vote on Berlusconi’s case is not planned before November 22nd. The M5S declared it a ridiculous waste of time. Furthermore, yesterday evening Berlusconi asked Prime Minister Enrico Letta to clarify whether or not the Severino Law is retroactive. Letta replied that government should not get involved in personal legal cases. We’ll see in the next few hours if he manages to avoid getting embroiled in Berlusconi’s affairs.
Last Friday Silvio Berlusconi re-launched Forza Italia, his original political party. The experiment of the PDL is definitively over. Berlusconi dissolved the party leadership and took the control of the party into his own hands. His decisions will be ratified on December 8th, when the first Forza Italia National Congress will take place. According to numerous newspapers, including La Stampa, it seemed like the PDL members who supported Vice Prime Minister Angelino Alfano were going to leave the party because they did not participate in Friday’s meeting. But yesterday, Alfano denied that the party was splitting and confirmed that Berlusconi is the leader. However, Italian Huffington Post reports that a block of the PDL is preparing an alternative proposal to be discussed at the December congress.
During the weekend Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi organized a three-day event promoting his candidacy for the PD party leadership. At the end of the conference Renzi affirmed that he is committed to promoting education, fighting unemployment and changing the current electoral law.
Meanwhile, the clash between Beppe Grillo and President Giorgio Napolitano is not over yet. Yesterday Grillo, after a meeting with the Five Star Movement’s senators, said that the M5S will proceed in calling for Napolitano’s impeachment. He called the President “an old man who we have a lot of problems with.” Prime Minister Enrico Letta criticized Grillo’s statement, saying that his attack on Napolitano must be firmly rejected and that the threat of impeachment is simply ridiculous.
Today is the turning point for the right. At 5pm Silvio Berlusconi will meet with other party leaders to begin implementing the transition from the PDL to Forza Italia. According to many newspapers, Berlusconi will take control of the new party, entirely eliminating the Segretario di Partito position that is currently occupied by Angelino Alfano. The PDL members who stand by Alfano may decide to leave Forza Italia and establish another political group.
Yesterday President Giorgio Napolitano met a few members of the governing coalition (including the PD and PDL group leaders, Ministers Gaetano Quagliariello and Dario Franceschini) to discuss a possible reform of the electoral system. Napolitano’s decision not to invite members from the opposition parties has been criticized by the Northern League and the Five Star Movement. Beppe Grillo said that opposition parties should call for Napolitano’s impeachment.
The tension between the PD and the PDL is increasing. Yesterday, PD member Rosy Bindi was elected chairperson of the Antimafia Commission, which is renewed every parliamentary term and composed of members of both the Chamber and the Senate. This term, the PDL did not participate in the election in protest. They claimed that the PD had previously agreed not to choose a member of its own party or the PDL. Bindi hopes, nonetheless, that the PDL will acknowledge her role, considering that the aim of the Antimafia Commission is to fight the Mafia, not to contribute to infighting among political parties. But Renato Brunetta, the PDL group leader, called for Bindi’s immediate resignation, proclaiming that fulfilling such a delicate role cannot be solely the left’s prerogative. According to Italy’s Huffington Post, Silvio Berlusconi considers Bindi’s election the PD’s gravest offense so far and proof that the PD will vote for removing him from his Senate seat.
Yesterday an article in the newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano reported that President Giorgio Napolitano, on his own initiative, promised the PDL that hewould issue a pardon for Berlusconi. To this, Napolitano replied, “Only Il Fatto Quotidiano can believe such a ridiculous lie.”
Meanwhile, Beppe Grillo announced that the third V-Day, a day of public mobilization for Five Star Movement activists, would be on December 1st. He affirmed that M5S will win the next election and the other parties can only avoid this by using tanks.
The quarrel within the PDL has not yet subsided. Yesterday Minister Gaetano Quagliariello, interviewed by the newspaper Il Messaggero, said that if a block of the PDL threatens once again to withdraw support from the government, there will be about 25 PDL members ready to support Enrico Letta’s administration. He added that if Silvio Berlusconi loses his seat in the Senate and tries to pressure members of his party to withdrawal their support from the governing coalition, he will not succeed. After the interview Quagliariello was criticized by other members of the PDL. The strongest disapproval was voiced by Anna Cinzia Bonfrisco, who accused Quagliariello of being a “champion of betrayal”. A group of 24 PDL members then released an official statement affirming that “it is no longer possible to maintain an unconstructive permanently critical stance against the government.” They also said that the tone and language used to criticize Quagliariello is unacceptable. According to La Repubblica, this statement is proof that the PDL is about to split, but Angelino Alfano, the leader of the party, affirmed this morning that the party hasn’t even discussed the possibility of a “split”.
Prime Minister Enrico Letta, commenting on the labor unions’ decision to strike in protest against the Stability Law, said they made a rash decision, reaffirming that the economic measures presented by his government will lead to growth.