Why is Italian politics such a mess?

Nicoló Patti
Jan 5, 2020 · 7 min read
Giorgia Meloni, Silvio Berlusconi, and Matteo Salvini

Italian politics has never been known as one of the best in the world, on the contrary, it is mainly famous for the difficulties in having a stable government (65 governments since the foundation of the Republic, in 1946), for problems of corruption, and for Berlusconi.

This introduction is surely not a good place to start with, but unfortunately it is going to get worse, in fact, we must add to the problems mentioned above the impressive lack of competence of politicians, and of the electorate.

What is happening?

However, after a crazy summer, in August 2019 Matteo Salvini, the leader of the League, decided to bring down the old government in order to force snap elections. He had good reason to do that, his far-right party was nearing 39% in the polls, and in a coalition with other two parties, the far-right party Fratelli D’Italia (FdI), and the centre-right party Forza Italia, led by Berlusconi he was sure to become Prime Minister.

Nonetheless in Parliament his party had only the 17%, therefore the other parties were able to organize a new majority, led by the M5S and the Democratic Party (which were historical rivals), again with Giuseppe Conte as PM.

Anyway, is important to say that approximately 11 days after the new government took office, a section of the PD decided to split in order to start a new political entity named Italia Viva, with Matteo Renzi as a leader. Even though Italia Viva has separated from the PD, it has however decided to support the new government.

Renzi, former prime minister from February 2014 to December 2016, has been the one that insisted the most on trying to form a new majority after Matteo Salvini, decided to bring down the old government.

I know, it seems more like a soap-opera, but anyway in this article I do not want to explain in detail what happened last summer, I want to talk about the whole political scene and try to explain why, as an Italian 22-year-old I struggle to see a positive future for this country.

Fake news

In fact, according to an analysis conducted by Prof. Matteo Flora, by using a software that is able to monitor the behaviour of the users on Twitter, by analysing the posts of three million users that in the previous month have retweeted something related to politics, 66% of the fake news came from profiles of supporters of Matteo Salvini (leader of the League), and Giorgia Meloni (leader of FdI).

In fact, looking at their Facebook profiles we see posts related to the worst conspiracy theories and a mix of fake data related to immigration, described as an invasion of Muslims that wants to impose Islamic rules and that want to destroy our Catholic culture. Is not hard to find also content against the European Union, the common currency, George Soros, and several other topics.

Incompetence

However is important to note that this situation is not new and has not been created by this generation of politicians, in fact this situation is the result of many decades where the problems have been “solved” by increasing indebtedness and short-term expenses in order to gather consensus, without spending a penny on investments and therefore by letting future generations deal with the problem.

Real GDP and government debt in Italy. — Red:Debt, Blue:GDP, Pink:Debt/GDP

Now those small problems, after being ignored for decades, have become massive and very difficult to solve, but politicians (and voters) keep blaming other factors for this situation and never consider their responsibilities.

In fact, it is a lot easier to say that Italy finds itself in this situation because of the European policies, or because people coming from Africa or Eastern Europe ruins the domestic labour market. While the real truth is that Italy is the country with the highest rate of people over the age of 65 compared to the population aged 15–64, and from 2008 to 2018, 816 thousand Italians decided to emigrate, most of them were under 35-year-old (according to Eurostat).

This means that the only way we can support our pension system is by having more people that works, and therefore immigrants should be considered a resource for our economy, not a problem.

Voters

The most impressive example of this is what happened with the League. It started as “Northern League”, a secessionist party that wanted to create an independent state among the regions of Northern Italy, the richest area of the country.

The members of the Northern League hated the Italians from the South because they considered them as lazy people that did not want to work and who preferred to live off of subsidies rather than work hard like those from the North.

Is in fact still possible to find on the internet videos where the current leader of the League, Matteo Salvini, sings a song against Neapolitans.

On the left Matteo Salvini, the actual leader of the League Party and former Minister of the Interior.

The hilarious thing is that the League is now the biggest nationalist party in Italy, and receives many votes from the South too, like at the last European elections in 2019, where the League received an overall 34%, with an incredible 23,5% in the South, more than the biggest centre-right party, the PD with 17,9%.

This is connected with the last topic I want to discuss in this article, that is the inability to offer an alternative solid option to the populist parties by the centre-right or the centre-left.

Where are the alternatives?

However, there are no real alternatives to them.

In fact the centre-left area is divided into different small parties that struggle to get enough votes to enter the Parliament, and one bigger party, the PD, which in theory should act as an “aggregator” that combines together all these small entities into a bigger one, that can aspire to win the next elections and create a solid government.

Unfortunately, this never happened, while the right has few strong leaders, the left has several small leaders that hate each other and that are jealous of the successes of others. When that happens, they usually decide to create a new small party.

This mechanism has led to the absence of a strong political opposition to the populists, with centre-right leaders that spend their time fighting each other instead of thinking of a unified strategy that can be favoured by all the centre-right and centre-left voters, with strong key values and objectives in common, like Europeanism, reduction of the budget deficit and an increase in investments.

Matteo Renzi (former leader of the PD and now leader of Italia Viva), and Nicola ZIngaretti (leader of the PD)

The Polis

Thought-provoking articles on politics, philosophy, and…

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store