March 07, 2018
The PD - so much like the SPD
The similarities between Italy's PD and Germany's SPD go much deeper than the mere observation that both parties had a terrible election, and that this is part of a secular decline of the centre-left in European politics. Both statements are true of course. But we also see a similar post-electoral dynamic at play: A failed leader is hell-bent to go into opposition, but the perceived interests of his own party ultimately destroyed that strategy. Matteo Renzi's strategy is now to boycott any talks with Five Star, and then to force a new round of elections. It looks to us that his resignation is merely a tactical retreat. The problem is that this option is not necessarily in the best interest of PD MPs and senators. There is no rule that says that 19% is the lowest the party will ever poll. In Germany, support for the SPD continues to fall - the party now polls at 15%. The AfD - and the Lega in Italy - could end up bigger than the SPD - and the PD respectively - at the next elections.
Officially, the party still sticks to Renzi's position, but there is now talk of a members' referendum like in Germany, as La Repubblica reports this morning. The party's establishment is still formally opposed to collaboation with Five Star, but the latter is considering making some rather tempting offers: presidency of the chamber of deputies, and inclusion of PD ministers in the cabinet.
We have entered the post-election phase in which most of the news consists of pronouncements and interviews where politicians make implausible claims. What we found interesting was the shift of view by Eugenio Scalfari, the founder of La Repubblica who was one of the quintessential pillars of Italian establishment thinking for several decades. He said on a TV show that he had this time supported Silvio Berlusconi, and previously considered Five Star and Lega aqually appalling. But he changed his mind on Five Star. He said that Luigi di Maio had demonstrated political intelligence, having turned Five Star from a disparate movement into a political party in a parliamentary tradition. He said Five Star was the party of the modern left. The PD is tried and confused.
We actually agree with that sentiment. PD MPs will have to consider very carefully a strategy of boycotting cooperation with Five Star, which can take other forms than a coalition. The issue that no-one in Italy can get around is that the political centre is now in a structural minority in parliament. New elections could strengthen Five Star and the Lega, who between then could tweak those aspects of the electoral law that clearly benefit the PD.