How to get voted in 51 days

The September 25 general election is 51 days away and the election campaign is now in full swing. At the center of the week’s debate is the deal between the Partito Democratico, Azione and +Europa.  After days of negotiations, vetoes, polemics and tweets, Enrico Letta, Carlo Calenda and Benedetto Della Vedova have signed an agreement to present themselves together at the next elections within the center-left with a shared program, the main points of which they have defined. Among the most important knots is thus dissolved the one related to uninominal constituencies, where a joint commitment is signed not to present candidates who are “divisive” for their respective electorates. The understanding therefore stipulated that party leaders, former MPs from the M5s and Forza Italia – with clear reference to Carfagna and Gelmini – will not run in the uninominal. Moreover, according to the agreement, the constituencies will be divided with a proportion of 70, in the hands of the Pd, and 30, divided between +Europa and Azione. From a political point of view, the understanding can be considered a success for Letta but especially for Calenda, who got what he wanted, probably strong in the knowledge that the Pd could not afford to lose another ally after the breakdown of relations with M5s. While Letta and Calenda exulted over the deal reached, «which makes the elections truly contestable» in the opinion of the Dem secretary, there was criticism and discontent over an agreement that certainly did not satisfy everyone. Indeed, Matteo Renzi’s reaction was immediate, confirming Italia Viva’s lonely race, writing “what others call loneliness, we call courage”. Also strong was the reaction of Giuseppe Conte, who explicitly called that of the center-left “a pile-up” or that of the Sinistra Italiana and Verdi who decided on the moment to postpone their scheduled meeting with Letta to verify the conditions of an electoral alliance. But it is perhaps Luigi Di Maio who is among those most affected by the consequences of the agreement. The Foreign Minister, who together with Bruno Tabacci presented the new political entity “Impegno Civico” on Monday, was most likely aiming to get elected with the votes of the center-left coalition in a uninominal constituency. But the pact with Calenda, who vetoed party leaders and former 5s, changed the game, leaving Di Maio disgruntled and with quite a puzzle to solve. This is the context of the Pd’s proposal to offer the “Right of tribune” to center-left leaders excluded from uninominal constituencies, including Di Maio, giving them a greater chance of entering in Parliament. However, so far this proposal does not seem to have pleased anyone.

Meanwhile, in the center-right, the waters seem calmer and tempers more peaceful. Representatives of Fratelli d’Italia, Forza Italia and Lega have begun writing a common electoral program. Finding an understanding does not seem like such a complex task given the coalition’s alignment on important issues such as the economy, welfare and immigration. The points on which more reflection is needed, however, are those related to the war in Ukraine, the possible reform on presidentialism demanded by FdI, the Lega’s historic proposal to grant more autonomy to the regions of northern Italy and some of Berlusconi’s proposals such as raising minimum pensions. In any case, negotiations on the program and the distribution of constituencies are still a work in progress, and we will have to wait for the next few days to have a more complete picture. Instead, what Lega and Forza Italia are pushing on these days is the announcement before the vote of some future minister. Salvini in particular makes it a matter of clarity and transparency: «Italians will have to vote knowing who will be Minister of the Economy and Foreign Affairs if the center-right governs this country». However, it is not excluded that the desire to “anticipate” the negotiation on Ministers is dictated rather by Lega and FI’s fear of counting less in the coalition after the elections, being Meloni the favorite in the polls.

In this great confusion of accusations, claims and side comments – typical, perhaps, of campaigning – it is hard to get a clear view of what is happening and how to move forward. The power relations between the political players appear unstable and confused, and the path to the next election complicated. Post-Draghi Italy has an extremely fragmented profile, with lines of “union” and “division” increasingly blurred. It is no coincidence that Mario Draghi himself, at the end of the Council of Ministers that approved the €17 billion dl Aiuti bis to support families and businesses, reiterated the need for «social and political cohesion». Uncertainty, with the vote just around the corner, can be mitigated if Italy’s credibility remains so in the face of what Draghi referred to as «clouds on the horizon»: rising gas prices, the energy crisis, inflation, geopolitical uncertainty and the high cost of living are just some of the challenges the autumn will bring. And no, they are not few.

A very high proportion of Italian citizens, especially in the younger sections, perceive these difficulties and show themselves, now more than ever, undecided about who to vote for but especially whether to vote or not. The goal of the parties in the immediate future will be to convince citizens that they are capable of handling emergencies and restoring to the country a unity that seems lost these days. The real question is: will fifty-one days be enough time to do this?