July 13, 2017
Renzi at war with everybody
After Matteo Renzi lost his referendum last December, there have been two conflicting narratives in Italian politics about what would happen if the government under Paolo Gentiloni went on all the way to the end of the term in 2018. The first narrative said a long interregnum would heal the divisions within the Partito Democratico, and could help get the PD back into power. The alternative view is that it would give the PD enough time to hack itself to pieces. The last few days have shown that the latter narrative was the right one. The beneficiaries are Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the Five Star Movement.
We already reported on Matteo Renzi’s broadside against the EU’s fiscal compact, which he promised to bury when re-elected, along with the other fiscal rules. There has been a lot condemnation of his statement, both from the EU and from within the Italian government. Yesterday, Renzi doubled down when he published a book containing an extraordinary attack on his predecessor Enrico Letta. The book says that, when former president Giorgio Napolitano invited him for dinner, he got the impression that the president did not see Letta as a legitimate prime minister because he had not subjected himself to any political process. He had no seat in parliament, and had won no primary. The only time Letta stood for elections was in the 2007 primary, where he ended up with 11% of the votes.
Corriere della Sera has a nice article about the reaction by Letta, who was so shocked that he initially did not know what to say, preferring silence as the most effective tool against what he considers to be slander. However, he ended up saying that Renzi managed to isolate himself within the party, and is now embarking on a quixotic campaign that will end up strengthening Matteo Salvini, Beppe Grillo, and Berlusconi, the leaders of the various opposition parties.
In a long analysis in Corriere della Sera, Massimo Franco quotes a senior PD source as expressing the fear that there is a danger of the PD splitting, a danger that Renzi underestimates. The party has survived the recent split of a group of left-wingers, but it would not survive another split ahead of the elections.
A critical test will come on November 5, with regional elections in Sicily. Renzi is already busy ridding the party of disloyal regional chiefs. This will be followed by a process of drawing up lists for the national elections, as Renzi already indicated he wants people on those lists that support him. A bitter conflict is raging within the party at both regional and national level.