Italian politics have undergone a radical change over the past year. As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, new Prime Minister Mario Draghi faces the challenge of leading a stable government capable of securing Italy’s roadmap towards virus release and overcoming the economic hardships that entail. arise. At the same time, two of the main parties in Italian politics, the Democratic Party and the Five Star Movement, have experienced ideological fragmentation and are seeking new political identities.
What happened at the end of January 2021?
In recent months, Italy has faced many political challenges. Due to the obstacles presented by the pandemic, former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and his government have largely avoided criticizing their broader political agenda. However, where there has been criticism, he has focused on two key issues: economic recovery from the pandemic and the rollout of the vaccine.
The country’s economic outlook is bleak, in part because Italian companies received so little financial support from Giuseppe’s government during the pandemic. The financial uncertainty that companies face has been compounded by the slow roll-out of the vaccine due to problems with booking and distributing the vaccine in different regions of Italy. Employment levels suffer; unemployment reached 10% at the end of 2020 and is expected to exceed 11% by the end of 2021. In addition, Italy’s GDP fell by almost 9% in 2020.
The government’s ‘stay at home’ strategy became increasingly difficult to implement after it became clear to the public that the vaccine rollout had stalled and that there did not appear to be any end to lock in sight. This discontent was manifested in protests against the lockdown, which took place in major Italian cities, including Milan, Florence and Turin. The period of unrest culminated when Matteo Renzi, leader of the Italian Viva party, withdrew his representatives from the coalition, causing the government to fall. The Italian public saw this decision as a source of political disarray at a time when national unity was essential. It sparked an appetite for new leadership.
President Sergio Mattarella called on Mario Draghi, former president of the European Central Bank, to form a government. Draghi was his first choice, not only because of his vast experience working for international organizations, but also because as an independent candidate, he believed that Draghi would prioritize national interests over partisan interests to do so. deal effectively with the pandemic.
Draghi said the goal of the newly formed government is to get Italy out of the Covid crisis using the Recovery Fund, a financial recovery plan that will be developed with the help of world-renowned consultancy McKinsey and Company.
The Democratic Party and the revolution of the five-star movement
Along with these changes of government, there have been broader changes in the political arena. Two of Italy’s main parties have gone through periods of significant internal change. Nicola Zingaretti recently resigned as secretary of the Democratic Party on the grounds that the Party needed to forge a new identity. The Democratic Party, which gained support in 2007 as the main leftist party, with a pro-European and progressive policy, has since spent a lot of time in government with politicians from other parties with very different views. . Notably, they have recently been in government with the Northern League Party. For the electorate, the identity of the party is increasingly obscured by these coalitions.
Recently, Zingaretti debated newly elected Democratic leader Letta on the themes of Italy’s role in the EU as well as the failures of the vaccination campaign. Democratic politicians also discussed Jus Soli’s reform, which drew criticism from right-wing politicians, who argued that raising the issue lessened the more looming issues presented by the pandemic. The principle of Jus Soli, which is widely seen by Democrats as a cause of socio-economic inequalities in Italy, is often portrayed by the right as a threat to population control.
However, the right has suffered from its own ideological problems. The Five Star Movement, which entered the political arena in 2013 as an anti-establishment and pro labor party, found itself under ideological scrutiny. They are currently part of the government of national unity and are therefore increasingly seen by the Italian public not as an opponent of the Establishment Party, but as a key player in the establishment. Thus, the imperative for political parties to take a back seat in times of national crisis ultimately undermined the party’s populist message, with MPs now leaving the party en masse. The five-star movement was also damaged by the scandal. Giuseppe Grillo, founder of the party, recently entered parliament wearing an astronaut helmet to protest against the requirement to wear face masks which was widely deemed inappropriate. Giuseppe Conte, former Prime Minister, announced his ambition to return to politics and replace Vito Crimi as secretary of the Five Star Movement. Conte, who is set to announce a series of new policies and initiatives for the party, may be the Five Star Movement’s last chance to repair its image.
What to expect in the near future?
The political situation remains precarious, which is in part due to the Government’s response to the pandemic. The roll-out of vaccination remains slow and hospital capacity remains at breaking point. There are several reasons for the slow deployment of the vaccine. First, deployment is up to each region. Smaller regions, with fewer people, have seen faster progress. However, some areas, such as Sicily, received an insufficient number of doses and had problems finding nurses to administer the vaccination. The regions of southern Italy have infrastructure problems that have slowed the roll-out of vaccination. The momentary suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine, in response to possibly related cases of thrombosis, further destabilized the Italian vaccination program. The government reacted only recently by replacing the former commissioner in charge of the pandemic Domenico Arcuri with Francesco Paolo Figliuolo.
For Letta’s Democratic Party, the next few months are an opportunity to find a consensus among its members. The Five Star Movement, meanwhile, will focus on selecting a secretary to work alongside Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s foreign minister, who together will campaign to re-mobilize support garnered in the last elections.
Italian political instability is likely to persist for some time as the government continues to grapple with internal ideological and political conflicts. The government’s main goal should be, and still is, the rapid deployment of the Covid-19 vaccine, as this will lay the groundwork for economic recovery and, ultimately, greater political stability. However, it remains to be seen whether the new Prime Minister will be able to foster the cohesion necessary for the smooth running of the vaccination program.
What are the main risks?
Since the government is made up of ideologically disparate parties that would normally have few common goals and interests, the government is fragile and in danger of falling again. It is therefore likely that once the era of the pandemic is over, new elections will be held and a new government, with a larger majority, will be formed, which will promote greater stability. In the meantime, it is crucial that party politics do not further affect the vaccination campaign, especially now that Italy has suspended the AstraZeneca Jab. It is also crucial that the Democratic Party and the Five Star Movement quickly promote internal consensus, so that they can focus on their efforts on a roadmap outside of perpetual lockdowns. For the next elections, this will be essential, as the Italian electorate will be likely to favor the parties that have cooperated during the country’s time of crisis.