June 06, 2017
Towards an Italian crisis
Italy will not only adopt the German voting system, but may even end up voting on the same day - September 24 - or possibly a week earlier, as La Republica writes this morning. But what outwardly appears to be the Germanisation of Italian politics is nothing of the sort. The most likely outcome of this process is a country without a budget and without a government, a chaotic scenario that may trigger a financial crisis. The Italian political establishment might want to reflect on the fact that what gives the German political system stability is not the electoral system, but a political consensus that you don’t keep on changing the vote system, and that respects legislative terms of office.
The new electoral law passed the first legislative hurdle yesterday, and now comes before the chamber of deputies. It is supported by a grand alliance of parties - the PD, the Five Star Movement, Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, and the Lega Nord - each for their own reasons. And they all want early elections. At present the centre-left, the centre-right, and Five Star, could expect to win around 20-30% of the vote each, not enough for a majority, so they will have to form a coalition.
Matteo Renzi is the main driver behind this process, because he sees new elections as his way back into power. Three of his predecessors have gone on the record comdemning him - Romano Prodi, Mario Monti, and Enrico Letta.
As La Republica notes, the argument in favour of new elections is that the current coalition supporting prime minister Paolo Gentiloni no longer holds - partly also because of the controversies around the electoral law, as it discriminates against smaller parties like that of foreign minister Angelino Alfano, Alternativa Popolare - formerly known as the New Centre Right. The 5% representation hurdle will destroy this party.
Pierluigi Bersani is also appalled by the choice of a September election. He said the choice of the date is the utmost in irresponsbility.
Frankfurter Allgemeine’s Rome correspondent sees a financial crisis coming up in the autumn because it will be impossible for the new government to agree on a 2018 budget in time. The article argues that both Renzi and Luigi Di Maio, the Five Star’s top parliamentarian, both want early elections because they do not want to be bound by the 2018 austerity budget that would otherwise be decided for them by the current administration. A September election would give them the opportunity to shape the budget themselves - clearly with the intent to defy EU rules. The paper also seems to mock Pierre Moscovici’s acknowledgement that he would respect exceptional circumstances in assessing Italy’s budget, a statement that implies that the Commission now categorises elections as exceptional. If the electoral law passes, it is unlikely that the Gentiloni administration will be able to pass the budget given the summer break and the electoral timetable Italy is then on course to miss the October 15 deadline by which member states have to present their budget to Brussels. The paper quotes Mario Monti as saying that Italy will come, during this entire process, under the watch of the Commission, and financial markets.