The first round of the local elections, held last Sunday, gave insight into the national mood. On June 11th, more than nine million Italians voted to elect the mayor in more than 1,000 cities, including four regional capitals (Catanzaro, Genova, L’Aquila and Palermo) and several crucial medium sized towns (such as Parma, Piacenza, Taranto, Padova, Verona and Lecce). Local elections take place in two rounds: the first round includes all parties, if none of them obtains the absolute majority (50%+1 of the vote) the first two parties continue to the second round, which decides the winner (it will be held on June 25th). Municipalities with fewer than 15,000 citizens elect their mayors directly during the first round (the party that obtains the largest number of votes wins). Continue reading
The main news in this week’s Italian press has undoubtedly been the parliamentary debate over the new Italian electoral law proposal. As described in the previous Italian Politics Briefings, Italy’s four main political parties (Partito Democratico, Movimento 5 Stelle, Forza Italia and Lega Nord) initially found an agreement over reforming the Italian electoral system along the lines of the German electoral system. Up to yesterday the pact seemed to hold and the Parliamentary Commission for Constitutional Affairs had quickly managed to resolve disagreement over the final details. The text was then brought to a plenary session of parliament and, coup de theatre, the coalition dramatically collapsed. It fell apart when the moment to vote arrived The four-party coalition had agreed to vote against the electoral law reform bill along with a large number of Congressmen. Instead, several members of the coalition voted in favor of the bill. The vote was supposed to be a ‘secret ballot’, but, due to a technical error, the distribution of votes was displayed on the Chamber’s screen, revealing who voted for and against. It turned out that several parliament members from M5S voted against the coalition. Continue reading
U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement provoked strong reactions in Europe and Italy. In a bold official declaration, written with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni acknowledged, “with regret the decision by the U.S. to withdraw from the universal agreement on climate change” and affirmed “the distance that intercurs between European states and the U.S. after the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement”. The three leaders also re-confirmed the irreversibility of the agreement and added that they firmly believe it cannot be renegotiated, which Donald Trump suggested in his remarks. Continue reading
The main news in today’s Italian press is the release of data on unemployment and economicgrowth by ISTAT, the Italian National Institute of Statistics. The data shows a decline in the youth unemployment rate, . people aged between 15 and 24 years old, which has reached its lowest point since 2012. Still, the rate remains quite high, as more than one young person out of three is unemployed (34,1%). The statistics also reveal an increase in the unemployment rate of the older segment of Italians (older than 50 years old), with an increase of 59,000 people on the unemployment rolls in March 2017. Continue reading
The main issue in today’s Italian press is the quick and unexpected convergence of the four main Italian political parties on a long awaited project for a new electoral law, which the Italian Constitutional Court blocked when then Prime Minister Matteo Renzi presented his plan in January. The electoral system that has managed to bring together the Democratic Party (PD) Forza Italia (FI), the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the Northern League (LN), is based on the German electoral law. According to PD leader Matteo Renzi yesterday at a party meeting, the new electoral law should be ready to present to parliament by the first week of July. Continue reading
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). Continue reading
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. Continue reading
The main political headline in today’s Italian newspapers concerns the Italian Senate’s controversial vote over whether or not to allow the use of wire tap of Silvio Berlusconi’s conversations as evidence in an ongoing investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office of Milan into accusations that he tampered with witnesses during a previous trial, some of whom were underage women that he had had inappropriate relations with. In Italy, Italian Senators have immunity from criminal prosecution, unless that immunity is lifted in a vote by the Italian Senate. Despite the majority of political groups declaring themselves in favour of the admission of the wire taps, the final vote (cast by secret ballot) rejected the prosecutor’s request by ten votes. This has led to a series of accusations between the Partito Democratico (Democratic Party or PD) and Movimento 5 Stelle (Five Star Movement or M5S). M5S Senator Nicola Morra, accused the PD in an interview of having “saved” Berlusconi in exchange for his support of the constitutional referendum, which will be held this fall.
The main headline of today’s Italian newspapers concerns the Italian government’s discussions with EU finance ministers on measures the Italian government would like to take to prevent a banking crisis. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi stated in an interview with Corriere della Sera that an agreement is almost “in hand”. Meetings have been taking place between Finance Ministers of European countries that have adopted the euro currency to discuss the health of European banks and to coordinate on measures that may be necessary to head off another financial crisis, like the one that embroiled Greece last year. There have been worrying signs that European banks are heading towards a crisis of liquidity that could have a far reaching impact on the financial system, and, in particular, on European citizens’ savings and investments in the banks. Continue reading
This week the main themes of the Italian political debate converge on the upcoming constitutional reform being debated in the Italian parliament. The Renzi administration has been obliged to change its strategy in response to pressures from his party’s internal opposition and his governing coalition allies.
The latest polls show that public support for the constitutional reform is declining, falling to 37% after a high of 50% in February. The percentage of the opposed and undecided have increased to 30% and 33% respectively. According to the noted Italian political scientist Ilvo Diamanti one of the main factors driving these trends is the “personalization” of the referendum after Prime Minister Renzi declared that he would resign if the “NO” camp prevailed. This, Diamanti explained, has strongly polarized public opinion and consolidated opposition forces hoping to push Matteo Renzi’s government to collapse. Continue reading