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).
Such a decision may alter the future of the Italian populace. Should it pass, the bill will foster diversity in the Italian population. Beppe Grillo, leader of the 5-Stars, wants to present this issue to the Italian people. He believes a referendum is the best way to vote on such a big issue, and that a group of politicians who are constantly vying for re-election should not be in charge of such a decision. The left supports this bill because it believes that the legislation would create a more unified, stronger Italy that embraces modern times. The center-right opposes the bill because it believes in citizenship by blood, arguing that the results would further diversify Italy and allow children of migrants to become citizens. In light of the massive waves of European migration in the last few years, anti-immigrant sentiments are driving people to support the 5-Stars and play into the principles of other right-wing, nationalist parties.
This past week in Italian politics also signaled a potential cause for concern within the Renzi faction of the Partito Democratico (PD). Matteo Renzi, the favorite to regain leadership of the party in its April 30 election, suffered a potential setback in light of accusations of corruption against his father, Tiziano Renzi, along with one of his political allies and sports minister Luca Lotti. Renzi’s father is under investigation for potentially seeking to inappropriately influence decisions at Consip, the state-owned company that overlooks public procurement. He is set to be prosecuted by interrogators. Meanwhile, Lotti faces allegations of tipping off Consip management to the probe against the company. He has been under investigation since December. While both deny any such claims, the optics are terrible for Renzi and the PD.
These allegations arm both the internal opposition within the PD as well as the Movimento Cinque Stelle (5-Star Movement) with more ammunition to use against Renzi. The allegations may serve to bolster Renzi’s challengers—Andrea Orlando, Minister of Justice and Michele Emiliano, president of Puglia—within the party. Renzi still seems to be the favorite, as stated above. The bigger threat looms in the upcoming general election held in 2018 at the latest. This potential corruption ties directly into the 5-Star’s anti-establishment rhetoric, and the PD cannot afford to lose any more voters from perceived elitism and corruption. Beppe Grillo capitalized on the news immediately, saying in its blog that “the Consip scandal is an atomic bomb in Italian politics. It’s pointless to pretend there is nothing there.” The PD can only hope that voters will still view it as a credible and legitimate party in light of the allegations.
It will be fascinating to watch the potential backlash against Renzi from these corruption allegations. More importantly, perhaps, will be the effect they have on the upcoming general election. Who knows what a government run by the 5-Stars would look like. If the PD wants to keep its parliamentary majority, it will have to recover. While the outcome of these scandals are unknown, the PD should proceed with caution. Mr. Grillo benefits greatly in that the events fit his depiction of the political elite as “corrupt.”